Album Review – Battle Beast / Circus of Doom (2022)

Welcome to the circus ruled by the one and only Battle Beast, featuring ten tracks that blend true Heavy Metal with pop and rock vibes.

Since their inception in 2005 in the city of Helsinki, Finland, the Heavy/Power Metal and Hard Rock bulldozer known as Battle Beast has been on an unstoppable ride, releasing an array of albums that can already be considered metal classics such as their 2015 opus Unholy Savior, and contemporary gems like their 2017 album Bringer Of Pain. Now in 2022 our beloved frontwoman Noora Louhimo and her bandmates Joona Björkroth and Juuso Soinio on the guitars, Eero Sipilä on bass, Janne Björkroth on the keyboards and orchestrations, and Pyry Vikki on drums are back in action with Circus of Doom, the follow-up to their not-so-good 2019 album No More Hollywood Endings. Recorded, produced, engineered and mixed by Janne Björkroth at JKB Studios, mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios, and displaying a classy artwork by Jan “Örkki” Yrlund of Darkgrove Design, Circus of Doom features ten tracks that blend true Heavy Metal with pop and rock vibes, putting the band back on track and showing us all why they’ve become one of the most important names of the current European scene.

A quick circus-inspired intro evolves into the melodic and wicked title-track Circus of Doom, showcasing classic Power Metal lyrics declaimed by Noora (“The lions are hungry / And filled with rage / Afraid and angry / Locked in a cage / Ah / The circus is coming to town”) spiced up by the whimsical keys by Janne, whereas Wings of Light can be considered a journey back in time to their Bringer of Pain sound, with Pyry dictating  the song’s headbanging pace while Joona and Juuso keep slashing their guitars in the name of Heavy Metal firing riffs and solos that exhale pure electricity. Master of Illusion, one of the first singles of the album, brings forward the band’s more recent creations, mixing heavy music with pop in a theatrical manner, and once again it’s Noora who steals the spotlight with her powerful voice; followed by Where Angels Fear to Fly, another tune where the band focuses a lot more on their Hard Rock vein than on Heavy Metal while Janne kicks ass with his keys and orchestrations from start to finish. Then happy, strident riffs permeate the air in Eye of the Storm, an upbeat metal tune spearheaded by Noora’s soaring vocals and Pyry’s rhythmic drumming.

In Russian Roulette, witty words are powerfully sung by Noora (“In this game of Russian roulette / The room is filled with sin, would you let me in? / Tonight might be the night / As troubles disappear, the moon seems so near / Beneath electric starlight”) while her bandmates deliver a solid balance of Heavy Metal, Disco and Rock N’ Roll, whereas Freedom is an imposing, pounding composition that will please all fans of the early days of Battle Beast, bringing to our avid ears the galloping drums and bass by Pyry and Eero, respectively, not to mention how epic the backing vocals sound. The Road to Avalon sounds and feels extremely melodic, inviting us all to dance together with those Finnish rockers while Eero’s rumbling bass goes hand in hand with the old school riffage by the band’s guitar duo, and sharp vocalizations ignite the groovy and exciting tune Armageddon, bringing forward another striking performance by Noora on vocals supported by the stylish riffs and solos by Joona and Juuso. Last but not least, it’s time for a Power Metal feast entitled Place That We Call Home, where the sound of the guitars makes a potent paradox with the keys by Janne, putting a climatic ending to the album. As a matter of fact, if you go for the Digibook edition of the album you’ll be treated to two excellent bonus tracks, The Lightbringer and Tempest of Blades, both definitely worth the extra investment.

You can enjoy Noora’s soaring vocals and the thunderous Heavy Metal played by her henchmen in Circus of Doom in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, and of course purchase a copy of the album by clicking HERE. In addition, don’t forget to also follow the band on Facebook and on Instagram, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel (if you haven’t done so yet, of course). Battle Beast might not sound as metallic as in their early days, but they managed to find an awesome balance between Heavy Metal and pop music that turns their more recent releases (with the exception of No More Hollywood Endings) a beyond enjoyable listen to any fan of good music, it doesn’t matter if that person is a metalhead or not, and that only contributes to elevate their name in the metal scene even more. In other words, welcome to the circus of Heavy Metal by Battle Beast, and don’t forget to bang your head nonstop to each one of the “attractions” of the show.

Best moments of the album: Wings of Light, Freedom, Armageddon and Tempest of Blades.

Worst moments of the album: Where Angels Fear to Fly.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Circus of Doom 4:57
2. Wings of Light 4:07
3. Master of Illusion 4:08
4. Where Angels Fear to Fly 3:56
5. Eye of the Storm 4:26
6. Russian Roulette 4:16
7. Freedom 3:44
8. The Road to Avalon 4:30
9. Armageddon 3:43
10. Place That We Call Home 3:47

Digibook bonus tracks
11. The Lightbringer 4:23
12. Tempest of Blades 3:32

Band members
Noora Louhimo – vocals
Joona Björkroth – guitars, backing vocals
Juuso Soinio – rhythm guitars
Eero Sipilä – bass, backing vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards, orchestrations, backing vocals
Pyry Vikki – drums

Album Review – Korpiklaani / Jylhä (2021)

The Finnish clan of the wilderness is ready to put us all to dance around the firepit once again with their majestic fusion of folk elements and heavy sounds.

Forged in the already  distant year of 1993 (first as Shamaani Duo and later as Shaman), Finnish Folk Metal institution Korpiklaani is more than ready to put us all to dance around the firepit once again with their fusion of folk elements and heavy sounds found in their eleventh studio album, titled Jylhä, and let me tell you there couldn’t be a better name to describe such awesome record. Jylhä is the Finnish word for “majestic”, which is exactly what frontman Jonne Järvelä, guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi, bassist Jarkko Aaltonen, violinist Tuomas Rounakari, accordionist Sami Perttula and drummer Samuli Mikkonen have to offer throughout the album’s 13 original compositions in the impressive span of one hour of music, all embraced by the beautiful artwork by Finnish designer Jan “Örkki” Yrlund (Darkgrove Design), resulting in one of the most sonically diverse records they’ve ever written and, therefore, proving why they’re considered one of the most important names of the genre alongside giants the likes of Finntroll, Eluveitie, Ensiferum and Turisas.

The tribal beats by Samuli kick off the dark and folk Verikoira (“bloodhound”), a headbanging, beer-drinking tune by those old school Finnish guys with the violin by Tuomas and the accordion by Sami taking us back on a journey to a distant time, whereas it’s time to slam into the circle pit and drink some vodka in the name of Folk Metal in Niemi (“the cape” or “peninsula”), a song about the triple murder in Lake Bodom in 1960 that shocked the whole Finland, with Jonne leading his horde with his inebriate vocals while the slashing guitar by Cane adds some extra spice to the overall result. Then we have Leväluhta (“algae”), with its name taken from a spring in Isokyrö where remains of approximately a hundred Iron Age bodies have been found buried, highly inspired by Finnish traditional folk music where Samuli’s beats dictate the rhythm accompanied by the wicked accordion by Sami; followed by Mylly (“the mill” or “grinder”), the story of a man’s journey to the mill who on his way sees a figure sitting on a fence, a “devil” with a hoof as a  foot. Musically speaking, it’s another entertaining round of their fusion of Folk and Heavy Metal where Jonne nicely declaims the song’s dark words.

A melancholic and pensive intro led by Jonne’s introspective vocals evolves into a dark and metallic Folk Metal extravaganza titled Tuuleton (“windless”), showcasing the razor-edge riffs by Cane in constant paradox with the crying violin by Tuomas, while in Sanaton Maa (“wordless land”), inspired by a legend known at least in Kaukola and Valkeala in Finland, a beautiful melody flawlessly flows from their unstoppable riffs, violin and accordion, resulting in a Folk Metal headbanger that will please all fans of the band. The violin by Tuomas keeps crying in Kiuru (“lark”), not as inspiring nor as vibrant as its predecessors despite the decent job done by Jonne with his trademark raspy vocals and the always stylish riffs by Cane; and Cane continues to extract electrifying sounds from his stringed axe in Miero, showcasing elements from Doom and Melancholic Metal carefully inserted in their traditional Folk Metal, therefore exhaling sadness while Jonne is effectively supported by his bandmates’ backing vocals.

Get ready to prance around the fire pit together with the boys from Korpiklaani in the fun Pohja (“base” or “ground”), where Samuli is on fire with his crushing drums while Cane and Jarkko make our heads tremble with their riffs and bass jabs, not to mention Tuomas’ incendiary violin solo. Then more traditional, old school Finnish music in the form of Folk Metal is offered to us all in Huolettomat (“careless”), keeping the atmosphere light and exciting while Jonne’s vocals sound like a drunk minstrel from the past; and never tired of drinking and partying around the fire, the band brings to our ears the straightforward Anolan Aukeat, with Samuli and Jarkko providing Tuomas and Sami a strong base for their refined violin and accordion sounds. Their second to last display of insanity and booze comes as the semi-acoustic extravaganza titled Pidot (“feast”), which should work really well if played live mainly because of how much fans of the band love this type of dancing tune, and last but not least Korpiklaani fire the grim and heavy Juuret (“roots”), presenting their usual dexterity and musical roots infused with pensive and sluggish sounds, changing its shape and form as the music progresses and with Cane, Tuomas and Sami displaying all their passion for folk music.

In a nutshell, we can rest assured that as long as the Finnish clan of the wilderness is among us, our good old Folk Metal will remain alive and kicking, with albums like Jylhä beautifully showing how majestic and fun Scandinavian Metal (as well as all other styles from the north) can be. Hence, don’t forget to give the guys from Korpiklaani a shout on Facebook and on Instagram, to subscribe to their YouTube channel and to search for them on Spotify for more of their first-class music, and of course to buy your copy of Jylhä by clicking HERE​ or HERE. Every single time Korpiklaani release a new album, you know it’s time to stretch our legs and arms, grab some cold beer, start the fire and get ready to spend hours and hours dancing around the firepit, celebrating the Scandinavian culture and, above all, our deep passion for heavy music together with those unstoppable Finnish metallers.

Best moments of the album: Niemi, Pohja and Huolettomat.

Worst moments of the album: Kiuru.

Released in 2021 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verikoira 6:19
2. Niemi 3:42
3. Leväluhta 3:50
4. Mylly 4:43
5. Tuuleton 5:50
6. Sanaton Maa 4:29
7. Kiuru 5:26
8. Miero 4:21
9. Pohja 4:28
10. Huolettomat 4:16
11. Anolan Aukeat 3:05
12. Pidot 3:47
13. Juuret 6:19

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals, mandolin, hurdy gurdy, violafon, shaman drum, djembe, flute
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars, backing vocals
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion
Samuli Mikkonen – drums

Album Review – Undrask / Battle Through Time (2017)

The story of a man lost to eternity, forced to fight and die repeatedly throughout time and alternate realities, told by an amazing Melodic Death Metal act from the United States.

Rating4

coverFormed in 2013 in Greensboro, the third-largest city by population in North Carolina, inspired by metal of all flavors and with the goal of creating equal parts tasty and heavy Melodic Death Metal, American band Undrask returns with more of their gripping music after their critically acclaimed self-titled EP released in August 2015, this time offering a concept album that tells the story of a man lost to eternity, forced to fight and die repeatedly throughout time and alternate realities. The album, titled Battle Through Time, is not only their debut full-length release, but also an excellent option for fans of modern Melodic Metal the likes of Amon Amarth, Carcass and early In Flames.

If there’s one thing about Heavy Metal concept albums I truly enjoy is the fact that it doesn’t matter how epic or futuristic the story might be, heavy music always illustrates all characters, their struggles and all ongoing events to perfection, exhaling intensity and passion. Featuring a classy and modern artwork by Finnish artist and musician Jan “Örkki” Yrlund (Darkgrove), Battle Through Time is comprised of 10 distinct tracks that together will guide you through the main character’s eccentric journey, each one playing an important role in the overall storyline, introducing new elements and increasing the electricity flowing through the band’s top-notch music. And when the album is over, I bet you’ll catch yourself waiting for the final credits of this “movie”.

And the story begins with No Graves for the Dead, a fantastic fusion of Power Metal and Melodic Death Metal where guitarists Erik Collier and Darryl DeWitt shape up the musicality with their addictive riffs and create an amazing ambience for lead singer Steve Wynn to blast his furious growls, followed by Conscripted and its chorus that perfectly summarizes the main concept of the album (“Rise again / Conscripted / For conflict without end / Embrace eternal war / Live again / Unbound by death and fate of men / I fall, I rise again”). Guitar sounds from “outer space” are the main element in this tune, with drummer Aaron Schimmel and bassist Daniel McCoy firing their rhythmic beats and metallic lines respectively to provide the song a denser aura. And in Champion of the Dawn, a modern battle hymn led by the potent riffs by Erik and Darryl, we’re treated to tons of progressiveness and heaviness, not to mention the sonic impact of the thunderous bass guitar by Daniel.

Then we have more intricacy in the epic Black Ocean, which continues to tell the excruciating quest of the main character in a melodic and uproarious combination of Progressive, Death and Groove Metal. Furthermore, the way Steve declaims the lyrics with his raspy gnarls is spot-on to accurately depict the whole story being told. Featuring backing effects by Ryujixepic, Embers and Omens provides a calm acoustic bridge to the metallic Longhammer, easily one of the best songs of the album due to its headbanging rhythm, boisterous drumming and beautiful guitar lines, boosted by the endless amount of epicness contained in its lyrics (“Legend speaks of a mighty force / Sealed in its chamber, dormant for ages / Victims it enslaves will feel no remorse / Ripped from its tomb, the power rages / Flowing forth from a molten prison / Finding form in the ancient mold / Grasp the aspect of destruction arisen / Gods grant the name of the weapon I hold”). And Daniel and Aaron keep blasting our ears with their low, powerful beats and punches in Primal Revelation, showcasing a strong Amon Amarth vibe with the complexity found in modern Melodic Metal similar to the creations by Scar Symmetry.

undrask-picDespite not being as gripping as the rest of the album, Faceless Eyes is another good display of Undrask’s high-end Melodic Death Metal, especially the great sync between Steve and Aaron, whereas Final Right, the second to last track in Battle Through Time, keeps up with the electricity of the album by blending the violence of Melodic Death Metal with hints of Progressive Metal, as well as another excellent performance by Daniel with his bass lines. Lastly, the title-track Battle Through Time is the consummate climatic ending to the story, a feast of heavy riffs and rhythmic beats in eight minutes of first-class Melodic Death Metal, with highlights to the potent vocals by Steve and the piercing onslaught by Erik and Darryl with their axes.

This up-and-coming five-piece metal act is waiting for you at their Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation, and in case you’re brave enough to join them in their battle through time you can grab your copy of the album at their BandCamp page (and soon at all major digital distributors). With a copy of the album on one hand and the powerful Longhammer on the other, you’ll be more than ready to face all challenges and dangers from the alternate realities generated by the music by Undrask.

Best moments of the album: No Graves for the Dead, Longhammer and Battle Through Time.

Worst moments of the album: Faceless Eyes.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. No Graves for the Dead 5:29
2. Conscripted 4:45
3. Champion of the Dawn 5:03
4. Black Ocean 4:53
5. Embers and Omens 1:03
6. Longhammer 3:53
7. Primal Revelation 4:56
8. Faceless Eyes 4:31
9. Final Right 6:12
10. Battle Through Time 8:21

Band members
Steve Wynn – vocals
Erik Collier – lead guitar
Darryl DeWitt – rhythm guitar
Daniel McCoy – bass guitar
Aaron Schimmel – drums