Review & Photography by Manson for MPM
The Finnish Power Metal band, Battle Beast, play their second UK date at the West Midlands premier venue, KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton.
Yet again brother ‘Waldorf’, is otherwise engaged. If you must know he’s absconded to the Emerald Isle with his brother and their Dad. No doubt, over the next few days, the Guinness share price will soar as they endeavour to get ‘Thunder Drunk’.
The usual tedious journey along the M6 sees its fair share of problems, it’s never an easy run. 77 miles takes 150 minutes, that two and a half hours. Ambulances, Police cars, roadworks and road closures all try the patience but eventually I park up at 10 minutes to doors, (7pm). Gear collected and a quick walk just in time for the doors to open. Tice sees me and has my pass waiting as I pass though. First in tonight can’t be bad.
Tonight, is in the main hall, it has been closed down a tad and the use of one of Judas Priests back drops from a previous tour makes for a colourful distraction. As always, the security are polite and helpful, several venues would do well to take note, makes the night less stressful for all. Tonight, we are four in the Pit so plenty of room to stretch out.
Before we get to see Battle Beast, we have a band that are new to me and to everyone here unless they were in London last night. Having formed in Berlin in 2018 over “Wats App”, the band had a group to talk about future projects, it was named Future Palace, the name stuck and the band was formed. The band cleverly used Social Media as they debuted, they’re first single, ‘Maybe’s, music video on their YouTube channel in April 2019, May 2019 they followed it with ‘Anomaly’.
In March 2020 record label, Arising Empire, announced they had signed the band to their label. The first single ‘Ghost Chapter’ was released in July 2020. This heralded the release of the first album, ‘Escape’ in the September of the same year. On the same release day, the second single was released ‘Illusionist’ which featured the vocals of ALAZKA front man Tobias Rische. A German wide tour was announced for 2021 but the Pandemic put paid to that so it was cancelled.
The Single ‘Paradise’ was released in the November of 2021, along with a music video, it was quickly followed in December with ‘Heads Up’ and the announcement of the second album ‘Run’, Its release date was June 10th 2022.
With Johannes Frenzel’s drum kit tucked in the extreme stage right and guitarist, Manuel Kohlert’s pedal board extreme stage left it left Maria Lessing plenty of performance room. KK’s is no pub corner that’s for sure. Statuesque Frenzel paces across the stage and jumps behind the kit as steady droning beat starts to build. ‘Dead Inside’ from the new album ‘Run’ has the night underway. A massive wall of sound emanates from the stage.
The drums are thudding as, guitarist, Kohlert is atop the riser as he strokes his 7-string guitar. Lessing, diminutive in black shorts is all around the stage as the steady intro to ‘Flames’ howls out followed by a screaming growl from this tiny person.
Her vocal jumps between cleans and a scary growl yell far too easily. The drums and guitar wrap around the quieter moments in her vocal before dropping away as the growl cries out. A steady kick drum drives this pacey number forward as a sledgehammer of a tune.
‘Twisted’ is up next and is a dip back to 2020’s album ‘Escape’. More mellow in its vocal delivery it doesn’t stop Lessing from head banging during the faster instrumental breaks. Taking a look at the crowd it would seem they have done their homework as they cheer when this banger is concluded.
The single ‘Ghost Chapter’ from the same album follows on. With this bouncing number the crowd are encouraged to Oh oh oh oh ooohs. With a melodic beat this 2020’s belter thumps along, cymbals crashes as the oh oh oh part is sung for us.
Lessing is demonstrative in her delivery, using the full width of the stage as she does so, first on a riser one minute she has the mic in both hands the next she’s bent over delivering hard and fast. The crowd are loving it.
‘Heads Up’ carries on were the last has left off. This, again, has a huge sound partly delivered by Kohlert’s pre-sets on the pedal board as he jumps on the stomp buttons and the sound of his guitar changes. This time it’s a fuzz driven over drive that fills the room as the drums crash away. The slightly open hi-hat ringing out as it gets a good beating.
A brief talked section has Lessing bouncing again, her arms flailing as she emphasises the words. The dark fuzz from the guitar is cutting in its delivery, a great tone. As the snare snaps out, we get the screaming growling vocal once again. The control is admirable as Lessing drops in and out of her clean vocal.
A nice drum fill flies out as Frenzel, his eyes rolling back in his head, marks time with an efficient run around his kit, toms flying as he pierces the roll with a snare snap or cymbal crashes as ‘Defeating Gravity’ hits the eager crowd. Lessing is, again, showing us her control over the inner demon by growling when she wants, the clean vocal is always there when the demon goes back inside! Cracking stuff and again the crowd are loving it. The front row are all nodding like Churchills dog riding up a cobbled street.
Maria Lessing tells us this is only their 2 gig in the UK, having just recently formed, and covid putting the world on pause for eighteen months, it’s no surprise that they have only really played a hand full of gigs until earlier this year
‘Break Free’ with its many growls is up next. Its soft keyboard intro soon falls by the side as the song breaks down and the fast feet on the kick drum try to rattle your teeth loose in your head. Another belter that is heavy on the bass drone despite not have a bass player, something that seems to be in-vogue at the moment, poor bass players!
‘Fever’ continues the run from 2022’s album ‘Run’ with drop tunings and heavy fuzz laden guitar is a punishing song, with an almost ‘rave’ backbeat its throbs and pulses along before driving on relentlessly. This was introduced as their party song as the drums thud away and the crowd clap along certainly helping with that party feel. ‘Locked’ with its shouted rap intro, follows. The fuzz driven guitar is overpowering the vocal at times as the distorted words are lost. It’s a powerful song that knocks you flat with its delivery.
Lessing introduces the next song about domestic violence, something she points out she’s lived through. She says “no one should have to suffer it” This is from the debut album and has thudding beats and more shouted vocals. The drums are thunderous as the fuzzed riff of the guitar helps to slam home the point. This finishes with huge cheers. In broken English Lessing says “ It was really lovely being with you, you know it already” as the crowd cheer “love that” she responds. “The final song is about never losing hope, Let’s all wish for a great future Paradise
And so, the set finishes with the fast paced ‘Paradise’ another from the debut album. As the bouncing drum beat ensues, the vocal is clean, as she jumps on and off the riser the song soars along. It reaches a dropped tuned section of gigantic notes and the beast with in is released and we get the growls for the last time. This band has been a lot of fun. Before they leave the stage, Lessing says over the cheers, claps and whistles, “Have a lot of fun With Battle Beast”.
What a great start to the night. Drum and Guitar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it would seem that the educated crowd in tonight certainly enjoyed that Teutonic threesome.
On with tonight. Battle Beast where formed in Helsinki back in 2008, a recent conception when you look at the frequent out pouring’s of Scandinavian Metal, especially with the popularity of the formidable Gothenburg sect.
On their way they won ‘competitions’ on local Finnish rock radio station, ‘Starba’ and the Wacken Metal Battle, both in 2010. In the following year they released their first album entitled ‘Steel’. A Finland only release which was later re-released on the Nucleur Blast label to the rest of Europe in 2012. The band went on to support Nightwish on their Imaginaerum World Tour.
With rising family issues, original vocalist Nitte Valo left the band after the tour with Nightwish. Late 2012 saw Noora Louhimo joining the band after being spotted on YouTube. She joined in time for their tour which started in the November. They supported Finnish Power Metal band Sonata Arctica.
Their eponymous next album was released in the May of 2013. This sophomore album was preceded by the single release ‘Into the Heart of Danger’. The single ‘Black Ninja’ was also released to support the album launch. It outperformed the debut album and charted across Europe. They again set about touring, this time with German bands U.D.O. and Powerwolf.
The third album ‘Unholy Saviour’ was released in early 2015 before long, the band were on tour with the mighty ‘Sabaton’ but not before lead guitarist Anton Kabanen had left the band. Replacement came in the form of Ossi Maristo and keyboardist Joona Björkoth on a sessional basis, Joona went on to become a permanent member pf the band. Anton Kabanen went onto form the formidable ‘Beast in Black’, a Finnish, Greek, Hungarian Heavy Metal band.
The singles ‘King for a Day’ and ‘Familiar Hell’ hit the airwaves in early 2017 prior to the release of the fourth album ‘Bringer of Pain’. Following its release, the band toured Europe yet again, this time with Majesty and GYZE in support. The band went on to tour the U.S.A. during the spring of 2017, playing support once again to Sabaton on their ‘The Last Tour’ with Leaves Eyes also on the under card. A tour of Japan finished the year off.
2019 saw the release of the fifth album ‘No More Hollywood Endings’ but the onset of the global CoVid pandemic put paid to any massive world domination tour. The European leg finished early 2020 as the lights on live venues were switched off indefinitely.
May 2020 saw a studio broadcast from Helsinki as the world coughed and spluttered to a standstill. A couple of individual appearances followed in June, August and then built up a head of steam with a few shows in November. Nothing really happened until the summer of 2021 with a hand full of shows. All was quiet again by the end of August before more shows during the December.
Throughout this time the band had written their sixth album ‘Circus of Doom’ was written, recorded and eventually released in January 2022. The obligatory tour followed, starting in Europe and eventually reaching our shores for the first of only three shows in the U.K. Tonight is the second of the three shows. Last night they opened at the O2 Academy in Islington, the tour finishes on the 16th at the Club Academy in Manchester. The whole tour finishes in Belgium on the 18th.
Hitting the stage bang on 9pm Battle Beast are quick to get started. The smoke swirls as we wait patiently as the heavy backlighting silhouette drummer Pyry Vikki is first out and stands over his kit scowling, arms raised at the crowd.
The stage is awash with red light as the rest of the band come onstage to huge cheers, we have a very partisan crowd in tonight as the opening track ‘Circus of Doom’ strikes up. The child’s toy chimes out and then wallop the screaming guitars cry and the lights strike up as smoke cannons let loose either side of Noora who, standing centre stage her foot on the riser, points her baton around the room and screams at Wolverhampton, the riffs fly out and the backing vocals support her stunning voice. A punch of the sky and more smoke ensues as she sings about the circus of doom.
The lights change to the beat, red pulses to a blue wash as Noora serenades like a Valkyrie atop the riser. I can’t help but feel that this would make a great James Bond theme tune.
‘Straight to the Heart’ has the Scandi rock sound in spades, full of “Hey Hey Hey’s” and flying fists, the call for head banging over the water. More smoke erupts as Noora walks to the back and Juuso Soinio rips a solo as the crowd join in with the singing once again.
Sparks take over from the smoke as the crowd and the band clap the start of ‘Familiar Hell’, like the previous song, both are from the 2017 album ‘Bringer of Pain’. The Hey’s flow as do the fists. The chorus has the band and crowd bouncing along to this Doro meets Europe screamer.
Temporary lead guitarist Atte Aho is up on the riser, his shark fin guitar screams to his touch, regular lead guitarist Joona Björkroth has taken a hiatus due to family reasons, he will be back in October we’re told.
Noora screams that she is glad to be in the birthplace of heavy metal, and goes on to say “this next one is from our new record Circus of Doom”. Punching the air as the lights pulse
red, green, blue we have ‘Armageddon’. The cheering flies from the crowd as Eero Sipilä introduces the song, the keytar sounds of Janne Björkroth fills your ears as this tune explodes with the customary Hey’s and hand claps. This is a feel-good band and the songs have an uplifting feel about them. Noora, dressed in a green trimmed battle dress, fish nets and horns rocks out as Juuso starts the lead solo off to be finished by new guy Arre Aho. The clapping is continuous as Noora hits the notes, her voice soaring like an eagle over the band.
‘Place that We Call Home’ carries on with that bouncy Scandi rock feel. The foot work from Pyry Vikki is stunning, the lights dance and flash around as Aho solo’s like a demon, Noora is directing the fist pumping and the “Hey Hey Hey’s” as he does so. Taking over, her voice once again is soaring hard as she brings the song to a finish. With the lights out and the “Hey Hey Hey” chant going on, the slow keyboard build up to ‘No More Hollywood Endings’ fires up, drenched in crossed white lights Noora pulses with the music, sparks fly around her as the stage is awash in red light. Pacing back and forth she blows kisses to the crowd.
Lights flare around the room as, head down, both guitarists riff out, Juuso at one point his guitar is hanging off the edge of the stage he is bent that low. An arch of lights pierce the pink/purple wash, as Noora hits those operatic highs. The throbbing beat continues as the crowd join in, clapping along! Sparks and arms fly into the air as cheers brings the song to the end.
Noora asks everyone to put their hands into the air as we are about to go into the ‘Eye of The Storm’ another banger from Circus of Doom. Again, the upbeat throb is contagious as you find yourself punching the sky too. Atte Aho is introduced finally to the crowd after he shreds a corker of a solo from atop the riser as Noora has everyone waving their arms to the left and right as the song bounces along, Aho is up front and central striking a John Norum pose as he helps bring the song down.
Bass player Eero Sipilä has the stage as he asks the crowd to get their cell phones out. Keys tinkle out as he starts singing ‘A whole New World’ he asks for help as he says he’ll forget the words; he gets the crowd to sing ‘A Whole New World’. Keys, drags his fingers down the keyboard of his keytar cutting the song short much to Eero’s disgust, ha ha .
The pagan type chanting of ‘Where Angels Fear to Fly’ brings us to this new tune. Janne has his head down as he plays away filling the hall with a huge sound. The stage is awash with red lights that pulse blue in time to the beat. Juuso solo’s as the lights strobe to the drum beat. Noora is in full voice and stunning it is too as she conducts the band from atop her riser.
Eero shouts “do we have any Vikings in the hall, do we have any Wolverhampton Vikings, get the hands in the air”” Horns up we gonna do so Pagan magic”. The bouncy keyboard sound of ‘Bastard son of Odin’ kicks off. With the crowd clapping along Pyry’s feet are a blur as smoke shoots sky ward from the front of the stage.
Noora is down now searching out as she sings. Keys and guitar are rocking as the lights flash as smoke, once again, fills the stage. Arre Aho hits the notes atop the central riser bathed in crossed yellow lighting, Noora takes a drink behind him as he does so. Eero gives it the voice as the drums crash the crowd are joining in with “Bastard son of Odin” as the song finishes hard!
Pyry and Janne push n pull the ‘bar’ on stage, gin and tonics are handed out whilst Noora has left the stage. The bar has a keyboard and 4 high mounted rotor toms on it. Eero says “this is the future of music”, “Iron Maiden have order 3”, “Judas Priest 5” and “Ed Sheeran has just bought one”. Heavy kick drum strikes out as Janne on keys strikes up the familiar intro to ‘I Was Made for Loving You’ while the kit is being plugged in by a tech. Noora walks back on to see she has missed out on the drinks. She says “they drink with-out me, let’s have a cheers” the band slug their drinks Arre Aho pulls a face, I think it was neat! “ Yarrrgh, that was bad” he shouts.
Noora mentions something about intros as they drop straight into the feel good ‘Russian Roulette’, again from the latest album. With an almost dying fly lead dropping into a screaming guitar. Noora is on it, her voice is scorching as the guitars take over. She picks the vocal up again, waving her baton she has the crowd clapping along. Yellow spots pierce the blue wash now.
The marching chorus is triumphant as Noora’s vocal soars as she sings of the guardian angel, screaming guitars sonically abuse, as Noora atop the riser bathed in yellow, rocks her hips back n forth. The guitars again rock out as a plinky plonk 20’s piano sound heralds the start of a monumental tom tom crushing riff. The band is finally introduced, the mounted toms are being beaten by keyboardist through-out the intro’s, the toms light up when hit, and white strobes flash across the stage, it’s a fast paced, heavy hitting intro, as Eero introduces the “real heavy metal princess, Lady Noora Louhimo” the crowd cheer and clap as the song commences to a climactic finish. We liked that a lot!
Noora asks “have you had a fun time? Will we see you again?” the crowd reply in the positive with cheers and claps.
As the tom toms, ‘bar’ is removed the crowd chant “Battle Beast” “Battle Beast”. Noora dedicates the next song to the crowd and to the band. “Never let any one put you down” she screams, ‘Wings of Light’ has Noora screaming as a huge guitar riff soars out, the keys are filling the stage with its swirling notes . Blinders flash from behind the stage as more smoke erupts skywards to the tune of “Hey Hey Hey”. Arre’s solo is sublime, his fast fingers smoke over the strings of his shark fin guitar. The hands of the crowd are up and clapping hard as Noora screams along, and the song is driven, hard, both guitars solo over each other as the vocal climbs and climbs to a final scream. The crowd join in with united scream back.
The stage is in darkness for the start of the final song of the set. Noora talks to the crowd “Let’s talk about dreams”, “Let’s make a deal”, “Whatever your dream lets go for it”. “My dream is to sing with you”, “let’s do this with the next song, it’s called ‘Eden’, Hey Hey Hey”, “let me see those hands”! As the song pulses on, the band have their heads down, nodding as one.
Noora is up on the riser as more smoke erupts around her. She is pointing to the crowd as she sings, swapping sides, she sings to each and everyone in the crowd, as she does so bright white lights fan out behind her and pierce the pink wash that has been bathing the stage. Janne joins Noora back on the central riser as the song continues.
Hey Hey Hey” ”are you ready to sing?” “Your Real” is repeated several times as Pyry hits his toms like they have been really naughty. Yet more smoke fly’s skyward as the crowd’s arms are up and punching the air. Noora’s amazing vocal swoops and soars as the guitars play out either side. Arre Aho has slotted into the role seamlessly, his playing is off the scale. The singing and clapping continues as the band finish the song. Noora is now bathed in several white spots as she thanks Wolverhampton, in the back ground the band can be seen leaving the stage, quickly.
“BATTLE BEAST, BATTLE BEAST” is the chant as the crowd take over, they want more.
The stage has a heavy backlight as a familiar sound strikes out, Arre Aho is centre stage once more, his screaming guitar howls out the intro to Star Wars, Janne on keys has joined him as they kill this return to the stage, but wait they’ve not finished, the keys continue into the Imperial March again from the Star Wars franchise.
The crowd are loving it the horns are up as Janne and Arre are joined by the rest of the band. The tone changes, the piano strikes up followed by a scorching guitar and a thundering tom riff. Noora is back and screams her arrival. The crowd are clapping as yellow spots sweep across the stage. We are into 2022’s ‘Master of Illusion’. A tasty guitar slices through the backbeat of thundering drum and bass. More white lights sweep up from the stage. Noora’s voice is stunning as she screams and the guitar fight for first place.
Anthemic, fist shaking what a return from the encore, as Noora punches the air atop her riser she announces “King for a Day”. The 2019 album ‘Bringer of Pain’ is the album of choice for the final two songs of the night. This banger has the crowd again waving left and right.
The uplifting keyboards give this tune a rousing sound as we get more “Hey Hey Hey’s” from the crowd whilst Noora screams effortlessly. A purple haze has descended over the stage, the air, now thick with smoke, is pierced occasionally by white, then yellow spots. A guitar screams as the crowd sing along, sparks erupt sky ward. Arre Aho and Janne rock out together bathed in yellow spots the guitar is full of tremolo driven vibrato, they are joined by Eero and Juuso and enjoy the moment before Noora joins them to finally finish the song off.
“Keep those hands up” screams Noora. A keyboard riff worthy of a Eurovision winner, sounds out. A steady drum beat kicks in and the compulsory “Hey Hey Hey” starts up again as we go into the final song of the night, ‘Beyond the Burning Skies’. The chorus has the crowd punching hard, this is Scandi heavy metal at its best. More smoke cannons go off as the kick drum goes into overdrive, is that 32nd notes on the feet? Tasty I’m liking that a lot. Arms and fists are being thrown into the air, re reading that it sounds like an orgy of Zombies. Arre Aho has again stepped up and is solo-in like a demon, perhaps unknown to folk outside Finland, but back home he’s somewhat of a legend.
“Wolverhampton! We fucking love you” screams Noora as she shouts over the sheer wall of sound. Heavy backlighting again burns the retinas as more sparks shoot to the ceiling. The stage is looking awesome, red, orange, pink, reminds me of the fruit salad sweets we got as kids, 2 for 1p, happy days. The song comes down amidst soaring vocals, screaming guitars and thunderous bass, the white lights dance and swirl across the dancing crowd. Cymbals smash as Noora hits the money note surrounded by dive bombing guitars and cheers from the fans, sparks again hit the roof as the song eventually dies!
“Catch you next time “ screams Noora over the erupting crowd, You betcha! What a show. A stunning 90 minutes of Finnish Heavy Metal at its best. If you haven’t got the new album, it’s a worthy addition to any collection. If you get the chance to see them live take it, it’s well worth the time and money, just ask anyone who was at the show!