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Album Review : Beast In Black: Dark Connection

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Review by Andy Hawes by for MPM

Finnish-Hungarian-Greek Power Metallers Beast in Black return to action with their third album for Nuclear Blast, entitled Dark Connection and very, very good it is too!

Beast in Black are a new band to me, as I’d not heard either of their first two albums prior to being asked to review this one. However, this is something I intend to rectify immediately, as they have a very interesting and addictive melodic Symphonic Power Metal sound: there is everything in there from Symphonic Rock, classic Heavy Metal to classic Power Metal with quite ridiculously infectious Euro-Rock choruses.

It’s a highly compelling sound with bags of powerful double-bass drumming, monstrous guitar riffs, maniacal shredding solos, multi-layered keyboards and stratospheric vocals.

Opening with the quite phenomenal triumvirate of ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Belladonna’ and ‘Highway to Mars’, the band proceed to utterly devastate your speakers with colossal slabs of up-tempo Symphonic Power Metal goodness. There’s clearly a reason why this band are on Nuclear Blast Records as this opening trio of brilliance hits home with the power of a forty megaton warhead, laying waste to everything for miles.

Each of these first three songs has pretty much everything you’d ever want from this kind of music. The vocals, courtesy of Yannis Papadopoulos are completely killer! Full of raw, tonsil-shredding power one moment, highly melodic the next and banshee-wail screaming the next, they cover all the bases with annoyingly consummate ease.

Anton Kabanen’s and Kasperi Heikinnen’s guitars assault the senses with an artillery barrage of colossal melodic Metal riffery and insane soloing, full of intricate sweeps, whammy bar dives, harmonised melodies and full on shred. These guys stamp their very considerable authority on the sound from the get-go, ably supported by the stunning keyboard arrangements and by the thunderous drums of Atte Palokangas.

Beast in Black make no secret of their love for Japanese Manga and Anime and, as a result, the lyrical content of these songs tends towards the dark futuristic, cyberpunk and the music fits with these themes extremely well.

‘Hardcore’ continues with the Symphonic themes already evidenced in the opening numbers. It has a slightly different rhythmic feel to what has gone before but is no less colossal in its sound, with the massed vocal chants of ‘Hardcore!’ providing a powerful chorus hook. You can almost imagine the story in these lyrics as an Anime cartoon – a theme that’s common to a lot of this album.

Then, just when you think you’ve got the measure of Beast in Black’s Power Metal sound, they lay ‘One Night In Tokyo’ on you! What even is this song? The keyboard intro to this track has an almost 80s Depeche Mode sound to it, with further nods to that decade in the insane synth-drum fills. I defy anyone to be avoid singing along to the chorus of this one and the instrumental section almost defies belief with the wildly sick guitar solo and slabs of almost techno keyboards. Utterly insane and utterly brilliant.

This sonic theme continues into ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’, which almost sounds like it could have come from a 1980s sci-fi movie until the chugging guitar riff kicks in and drags it kicking and screaming back to melodic Power Metal territory. Listeners of a ‘certain age’ might be reminded of 80s US Rockers Q5 in parts of this song, which cleverly combines movie-soundtrack AOR and Power Metal themes into one beautiful cocktail.

Revengeance Machine’ starts the same way, with an Anime movie voice-over sitting amidst some very 80s sounding keyboards. However, this is short lived, as the track very suddenly kicks into an utterly raging slab of pounding Metal – think a Symphonic Metal take on Black Sabbath’s ‘Neon Knights’ and you’ll be in something approaching the right ballpark. The lyrics to this could be a movie in themselves, continuing the cyberpunk themes already well-established within the album.

‘Dark New World’ returns us to the sort of sound we heard in the opening numbers and it’s immediately clear that Beast in Black have no intention of letting the quality dip even one iota. This is reinforced by the fabulous ‘To The Last Drop of Blood’ which has a very 80s Hair-Metal- influenced opening riff before the band return us to familiar territory and keep us very firmly fixed there with the absolutely stunning ‘Broken Survivors’, which threatens us with an almost AOR verse with delicate keyboards and falsetto vocals lulling us into what we all know is a false sense of security and it’s almost a relief when the huge guitars and chorus melodies wash in like a tidal wave and carry us away, punching the air as we go!

Then, just when you thought Beast in Black might have hit their peak, they deliver up the brilliant ‘My Dystopia’. This has an absolutely beautiful keyboard/orchestral introduction: delicate, subtle and quite beautiful, it’s a lovely change of pace from the frenetic buzz of everything that has gone before. The great thing about this track is that the band pull out all the stops on the arrangements.

The dynamics of this track are brilliant, with the whole band playing their part in the light and shade as the track moves through to its conclusion. This is the sort of track that the term ‘Symphonic’ was made for as it’s almost like a mini symphony the way it moves through the different sections. Yannis Papadopoulos’ vocals, always brilliant throughout the album, shine here as he uses every facet of his brilliant voice through the track. Utterly brilliant!

Penultimate track ‘Battle Hymn’ is the longest track on the album. Clocking in at almost seven minutes in length, it’s another Symphonic tour-de-force that takes the listener on a rocket-fuelled ride through a range of sections and tempos that really have the feel of an heroic movie.

You can almost taste the blood, hear the screams of the dying and feel the triumph of the victors as they stand, axes and swords aloft, spattered with the blood of their enemies. Mighty stuff indeed, which is a given really, as further research reveals that it is, in fact, a Manowar cover! Needless to say, it’s a completely different beast from the original and is further proof of the stunning talent within the band as they make this classic old Metal tune their own.

Now, you’d almost expect an album like this to end with a huge slab of Power Metal rather akin to the opening trio, but not Beast in Black! No, this album ends with ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ written by the one and only Michael Jackson! I didn’t even realise this until I checked the credits on the Beast in Black website (although the song was annoyingly familiar each time I listened to it).

This tells you all you need to know about the excellence of this track as Beast in Black once again make this completely their own and make it the perfect final track. It really is an utterly immense piece of work – a brilliantly unique choice of song to cover and the way that they do it is absolutely stunning, with each and every band member pulling out all the stops throughout.

Phew… And…. Breathe….

What a monster album! I freely admit that I don’t generally listen to a huge amount of Symphonic Power Metal, but Beast in Black have 500% converted me to their cause with this absolutely stellar album! It’s rare these days for me to listen to a new album once, then as soon as it’s finished, put it straight back on again (unless it’s a CD that just repeats in the car) but this one is SO good, that it made me do just that! The energy and the power within this set of songs is something else entirely.

Add to that the incredible musicianship of the entire band, the brilliant production (courtesy of guitarist and founder-member Anton Kabanen) and the movie-like feel to the lyrical themes and song structures and you have one irresistible piece of work here. Beast in Black, you have a new fan right here!

Absolutely essential listening for fans of the genre and for anyone who just loves any kind of melodic Rock or Metal music.

BEAST IN BLACK’s third album ‘DARK CONNECTION’, out October 29th via Nuclear Blast. Pre-order: https://bfan.link/dark-connection.yde

Stream ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’: https://bfan.link/moonlight-rendezvou…

SUBSCRIBE to NUCLEAR BLAST: http://nblast.de/NBytb

SUBSCRIBE to BEAST IN BLACK: http://nblast.de/subsBiByt

FOLLOW BEAST IN BLACK: Spotify: http://nblast.de/BIBSpotify

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bib_band

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beastinblack…

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BIB_band

Bandcamp: https://beastinblack.bandcamp.com

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