BRAINSTORM – “Wall of Skulls”
By Colonel Angus
I want to start off by saying that the power metal genre, in general, does nothing for me. There are very few bands that rise above to the point where they have my interest but most of just fail to grab my attention. The problem I have with many of the releases is that they are all just full on power metal from track to track and it sounds like just one long song. Sometimes a band like BRAINSTORM get a nice balance between fast songs by sprinkling in some cuts that have a great chugging riff. This variety satiates my traditional metal sensibilities while also opening up my ears to well-crafted power metal.
I got turned on to BRAINSTORM a few years ago when I got a hold of “Midnight Ghost” and since then I have been getting their older material. For my money, “Midnight Ghost” and “Firesoul” are the cream of their older catalogue but we are here to discuss “Wall of Skulls”. One of the great things about this new release is that the band keeps evolving, even if they still lay firmly in the power metal genre. The material on this record stands on its own and I would say that the songs are no so easily interchangeable. Some bands like MÖTORHEAD and AC/DC have made a career of staying true to their sound but in the process, their songs sound like they could be off any number of records. Don’t get me wrong, I love both bands but few groups can get away of that one-dimensionality. “Wall of Skulls” has those fast power metal tunes that were found on Midnight Ghost but they sound a bit different. “Where Ravens Fly” and “Escape The Silence” sound like a band with something to prove. I certainly would never accuse BRAINSTORM of just going through the motions. While those two tracks are firmly in power metal territory, there are some great tunes that just have that chugging melodic riffing that really hits the spot. Two great examples of this are “Turn Off the Light” and “The Deceiver” with the latter having a great JUDAS PRIEST vibe. Elsewhere, we get some really cool track like “End of My Innocence” (my current favorite on this disk) and bonus track “Cold Embrace”. As I mentioned earlier, what makes this work for me is that BRAINSTORM add variety of tempo throughout their albums so we aren’t listening to one long song. “Wall of Skulls” ebbs and flows and takes the listener on a journey and if you liked “Midnight Ghost”, you will like this one as well.
BRAINSTORM has a pretty consistent line-up with their newest member, bassist Antonio Ieva clocking in more than a dozen years with the group. Ieva and drummer Dieter Bernert are rock solid with Bernert showing off his ability to go full on power metal but also switch to a great groove for slower material. Milan Loncaric and Torsten Ihlenfeld are a great guitar duo that have being riffing together for the better part of 30 years. Their riffing and soloing soars above the usual power metal fare and they get better with each record. I have to admit that when I first heard Andy B. Franck’s vocals on “Midnight Ghost”, I wasn’t that blown away. Sure, they were good but they didn’t stand out. But with each subsequent listen I started noticing the little nuances and inflections in the vocal performance and now I am a total fan. On “Wall of Skulls”, he puts in a great vocal performance and shines throughout. The biggest take-away from all of this is that if you were looking for some progression on “Midnight Ghost”, then “Walls of Skulls” is just what need. For those of you who are new to BRAINSTORM, this release is a great intro to the band but be sure to check out some of their older catalogue as well.