Review Summary: An unashamedly delicious helping of pop-metal cheese.
It was over a decade ago now, when glam-metal rockers ‘Lordi’ bought the house down at Eurovision, with a gloriously bizarre, yet emphatically hard-rocking performance, ending the run of sappy love ballads and cheesy dance-pop novelties, which had dominated prior years. And yet, much in their own way, Lordi WAS a cheesy dance-pop novelty, just one with a slightly spookier dress sense. But man was it good fun; and I’ve watched Eurovision with bated breath every year since, patiently waiting for Lordi 2.0 to cross from Nordic shores.
If Finland doesn’t enter ‘Beast In Black’ as their official Eurovision contestant in the next few years, they’re missing a trick. In debut release ‘Bezerker’, the band throws everything entertaining about euro glam-metal at the wall – operatically belted vocals, over-the-top guitar solos, unashamedly poppy choruses – then adds a dash of the frenetic energy of power metal in for good measure. And while at times the more aggressive, rougher round-the-edges sound of noted influences ‘Judas Priest’ is apparent, they also frequently lean on the gothic atmosphere of mid-2000’s ‘Nightwish’, with songs drenched in lush orchestration and sparkling synthesizers. Indeed it often feels like a band trying to be all things, to all men.
And the issue with this approach is obvious; if all a band does is imitate others, why bother listening to them when the originals exist. Nowhere is this more apparent than in late album track ‘Eternal Fire’, Beast In Black’s unofficial remake of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’; and with a familiar galloping drum rhythm, four chord progression, eerily similar lead keyboard riff performed on a near identical synthesizer - and a chorus call-to-arms where the line ‘...e-ter-nal...fi-re...’
is vocalised to near syllabic perfection with ‘...the...fi-nal...count-down...’
, it feels like the band trying to get as close to a re-creation as possible, without being slapped with a copyright lawsuit.
Yet despite ‘Beast In Black’ feeling at times like a tribute band to an entire scene, there’s so much I can’t help but love about this album. The song writing for a start; it’s undeniably, frustratingly catchy, built around meaty guitar hooks and massive singalong choruses, which worm their way into your consciousness. It’s perhaps best exemplified in lead single ‘Blind And Frozen’; which has had me unashamedly belting out ‘...how I long for the time, when your lips would kiss mine...’
and ‘...i will wait in the name of LOVEEEE...’
at full volume in the car, multiple times over the past few days. And while lyrical themes alternate like clockwork, between testosterone-fuelled love anthems and standard fantasy tropes, about battles, demons and warriors, musically there’s quite a wide spread; such as the double-kicker driven power metal of the self-titled opener, the danceable disco-metal of ‘Crazy Mad Insane’ and the classic rock-ballad closer ‘Ghost In The Rain’ – because obviously you can’t close out a hair-metal album in any other way.
Instrumentally, it’s also solid across the board, with the guitars providing the perfect combination of squealing solos and classic heavy metal riffing; and the drums and bass working in lockstep, to create the fist-pumping, head-banging rhythm required. And despite what you think of the lyrics, vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos delivers a stellar performance, one which can stand against the best in the genre, showcasing a fantastic range, which waits until almost the end of the closing track to demonstrate the dizzying highs it can reach. It’s all wrapped up in a bombastic and slick production, which earnestly revels in the over-the-top absurdity; and indeed it’s easy to imagine ‘Beast In Black’ being marketed as Steel Panther styled parody band in an alternate universe. But for all its unabashed masculinity, its charmingly old-fashioned sincerity, it’s fun as hell and I’ve got absolutely no chance of getting it out of my head any time soon.
Blind And Frozen
Ghost In The Rain