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Album Review: Brainstorm ‘Midnight Ghost’

The German outfit offers another strong link in the heavy metal chain.

Formed in 1989, Brainstorm is a power metal band from Heidenheim, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, who recently released their 12th album Midnight Ghost.

The band consists of Andy B. Franck (lead vocalist), Torsten Ihlenfeld (guitars, backing vocals), Milan Loncaric (guitars, backing vocals), Antonio Ieva (bass), and Dieter Bernert (drums).  Their lyrics revolve around personal feelings, mental turmoil, and death.

Being familiar with — and liking — some of Brainstorm’s previous records (Metus Mortus and Downburst specifically), I was stoked to hear their newest work.

First up is “Devil’s Eye.” A drum pattern opens up to classic power metal double bass drumming and a sharp-edged riff. Surprisingly, there are even a few symphonic flairs in the form of a keyboard. Towards the middle there’s a really nice chunky guitar riff before the solo, which heavily reminds me of Hammerfall’s “Titan” or Rage’s “Hellgirl.”  There are actually two short guitar solos, one after the other, and then a short keyboard interlude before the chorus takes the song to conclusion. Starting the album fiercely, this track is among the best on Midnight Ghost.

Next is “Revealing the Darkness.” It opens up with a short piano and violin intro, before the riff and double bass enter. It’s slower than the opener, but is no less potent, featuring a darker sound. It fades out with the wind and waves of a stormy sea, matching the nautical horror theme of the song. The next tune, “Ravenous Minds” starts with a synth-y keyboard section and a mildly distorted chorus in the background, then transitions to another chunky mid paced riff, and a long-held chord similar to Sabaton’s “Sparta.” It comes across as a combination between two other Brainstorm songs, “Weakness Sows Its Seed” and “Under Lights” both from the 2001 album Metus Mortus. “Ravenous Minds” is another of the best, as it is very catchy.

“The Pyre” is different as it uses a fast-paced melodic death metal riff, which makes it stand out among the other album’s tracks. This is the most aggressive song on the album, and comes with a nice shredding solo to complete the aural assault.

“Jeanne Boulet (1764)” opens with the sound of rain, thunder, and town bells, sounding like a cold night in some Victorian era European city. Compared with the rest of the album, this track is much darker and more cinematic, evoking images of Van Helsing-esque hunters and Gothic monsters. It features another crunchy mid-paced riff, with bell peals adding emphasis during the chorus. The violin is back, this time with an acoustic guitar, at the song’s middle. Again, another great shredding solo. “Jeanne Boulet (1764)” is the third winner, as the atmosphere combines with the musicianship to create a vivid, cinematic image.

“Divine Inner Ghost” features a really cool opening riff that sounds similar to 2:28 in Testament’s True American Hate“. To no surprise, it’s mid-paced. However, this song is very similar to the aforementioned “Revealing the Darkness” especially the chorus and main riff.

My first reaction to “When Pain Becomes Real” was that the beginning is really similar to another Brainstorm song, “How Do You Feel.” Otherwise, this song is pretty typical mid-paced power metal. “The Four Blessings” starts again with another crunchy mid-paced riff, which would fit right into Hammerfall’s newer albums (r)Evolution and Built to Last.  There are some gang vocals in the second verse, which was surprising (as gang vocals are usually in thrash metal, or punk genres like beatdown hardcore).

“Haunting Voices” is another mid-paced chugger, but at the 3:08 mark the riff sounds like something Decaying, a Finnish death metal band, would use. This is an interesting twist, but still squarely within the safe zone of the previous tracks “When Pain Becomes Real” and “The Four Blessings”.

Finally, “The Path” closes the album. The acoustic guitar is back, and leads into a ballad. This is a pretty typical ballad, not much different here than on other power metal albums. As a final track, it was disappointing but most ballads usually are.

Anyone who is interested in Brainstorm, or just dark power metal in general, should enjoy this release. It is also a good introduction to power metal to non-metal listeners as it has a good variety of different tempos, so they can hear some of the variety that metal has to offer. Andy, the vocalist, sounds as good as ever and the mix was good. The vocals and instruments’ loudness are balanced, and the bass is even audible at times, which in metal, is often not the case.

Brainstorm’s Midnight Ghost definitely lived up to my expectations. I remember them playing crunchy, dark power metal and this album did nothing to dispel that. Like Hammerfall or Bolt Thrower, Brainstorm doesn’t drastically change from album to album, but keeps refining their core sound. This may alienate listeners who want something fresh every time, but long-time fans will rejoice in knowing the band won’t experiment too far outside their sub-genre.

Within Brainstorm’s discography — and compared to other power metal releases — it’s another strong link in the heavy metal chain.

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