Reviewed: October 1, 2021
Released: September 17, 2021, AFM Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
I’ve been a fan of Germany’s Brainstorm since their 2000 release AMBIGUITY. I found them to have a very unique sound. They had roots in European power metal being from one of the countries responsible for it’s beginnings. However, they had a harder edge to their sound; the guitars were a bit heavier and the riffs more rooted in more traditional or even some thrash. Andy B. Franck’s vocals have a harder edge to them that reminds me of Harry Conklin in places. I had not listened anything from them since their 2014 release, FIRESOUL so when I first heard the singles they teased us with I was very eager to hear a new Brainstorm album. WALL OF SKULLS is their lucky number thirteen. For some bands that number has not been kind. For Brainstorm, they rose to the occasion. This album reminded me why I loved this band to begin with.
After an intro the first proper song is one of the aforementioned singles, “Where Ravens Fly.” From the first notes of the song I’m already getting goosebumps. This is taking me back to when I first heard Brainstorm. The riffs are heavy and crushing and the song has some fast parts but it’s the choruses that this band is capable of. Helloween are the chorus kings but Brainstorm is a close second. One second the song is ripping, the next we are in this huge chorus with some amazing symphonics; brought to you by none of than Miro Rodenberg. But he is not the only special guest on this album. “Escape the Silence,” the other single and video released features Rage’s Peavy Wagner. The verse has this heavy riffing but as we move to the bridge the melodies begin then another huge chorus. Right on it’s heels is “Turn Off the Light” featuring Oden Ogan’s Seeb Levermann sharing vocal duties. This song is probably the most power metal Brainstorm has ever been. Oh what’s that, another great chorus? Of course there is!
The momentum doesn’t stop as the the second half of the album has some great moments as well. Tracks like “My Dystopia” and “Stigmatized (Shadows Fall)” are powerful songs that are some of the best I have heard from this band. These songs are the heavier side with a little less keys and lot more riffs…oh and that whole chorus thing I seem to keep on about. The latter also has some godly fretwork. Oh and Brainstorm can actually still do the metal ballad right. “Glory Disappears (Black from Grey) is the first metal ballad that I’ve heard in a long time that not only doesn’t make me cringe, I actually like it. This leaves me with my new favorite Brainstorm song, “I, Deceiver.” This is a example of a song being catchy all the way through. It’s a fun metal song with great riffs and a lot of melodies, especially in the chorus. This band has a way of creating great melodies that you do not always hear in other power metal bands. That’s one of the things that sets this band apart from their peers.
I’m still not sure why I have not kept up with this band over the years. The albums I heard by them I like and I even got the chance to see them live, as well as meet the band in 2004 at ProgPower in Atlanta. All I know is that WALL OF SKULLS is the album that got me interested in this Brainstorm again. This is essential!