While listening to DARK CONNECTION and assembling my thoughts on the album, I went back to the review I wrote for BERSERKER and was shocked to realise BERSERKER was released in 2017 so I went in search of the Beast In Black discography to see if there was anything I’d missed. Sure enough between BERSERKER and DARK CONNECTION I’d missed the release of FROM HELL WITH LOVE – 2019 must have been a busy year. Before continuing with my review of DARK CONNECTION, I backtracked and listened to FROM HELL WITH LOVE to understand the evolution that led to Dark Connection; not that it helped.
“Blade Runner” opens the album’s theme of cyberspace, neon lights, AI and science fiction with a typical, power metal song – strength, speed, melody, lead break and falsetto with a catchy chorus. “Bella Donna” follows a similar style but with a stronger melody a cleaner vocals from Papadopoulos.
A different sound and beat begins to emerge in “Highway to Mars”. Papadopoulos’s vocals produce more texture, a little screamy, and the 1980s synth sounds introduced in “Crazy, Mad, Insane” from the BESERKER album, but wasn’t obvious in FROM HELL WITH LOVE, plays an equal role with the guitars.
A different tempo meets us in “Hardcore”. Complementing the lyrics of the song, the music style is an uplifting, modern take on vaudeville burlesque. With the lyrics “A fallen angel, sweet and pernicious, You’re my delicious unholy wine, My kinda lady, silver and crazy…” I can’t help but swing my hips, kick up my legs and throw a piece of clothing or two around the house.
From “One Night in Tokyo” the album appears to take an alternative route back to the ‘80s. “One Night in Tokyo” is a Eurobeat, electronica, Pet Shop Boys style dance track more suited to an ‘80s dance party (rave) than an any-genre metal album. The song includes the same elements as “Crazy, Mad, Insane” with the electronic drums samples, vocals processed through a sampler and simple, repetitive synth chord structure.
With a long introduction “Moonlight Rendezvous” continues a watered-down Euro dance feel with electronic drums but at a slower pace. Papadopoulos’s falsetto vocals reach new levels in the catchy, melodic chorus. At times Papadopoulos’s vocals verge on a high-pitched screamfest rather than the smother falsetto he’s so good at which is very obvious in songs like “Revengeance Machine” and “Dark New World”. Not being a fan of vocalists like Jimmy Barnes, Bon Scott and even Graham Bonnet in certain songs, I had reached my limit and Papadopoulos started to grate on me.
While “The Last Drop of Blood” has a decent lead break in the middle, the song still sits in the alternative Euro-metal/metalbeat hybrid genre.
“Broken Survivors” returns us to the sound and style of the single that launched Beast In Black in 2016 “Blind and Frozen”. The balance of metal is returned with guitars and Papadopoulos’s ability to sing like two different people.
“My Dystopia” which is the last track of the album starts with a smooth, soft piano and cymbal waltz. As a rule I’m a not a fan of ballads ending an album, but “My Dystopia” turns into a symphonic power ballad which is my favourite track of the album.
Some editions of the DARK CONNECTION include bonus tracks Manowar’s “Battle Hymn” and Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us”, but they’re no exceptional. The vocals are too textured for me to enjoy. There’s good, guttural, growl vocals that enhance a song, but then there’s high screechy voices that start to sound like a middle aged woman after decades of smoking. Unfortunately, Papadopoulos’s attempt to sound more metal sounds like the latter.
While the early songs of the album have some semblance of metal music a lot of it makes me question how much ‘80s new wave and dance associated synth sounds can be included before the album no longer fits in the metal mould. I loved BERSERKER, but I can’t say the same about DARK CONNECTION.
1. Blade Runner
2. Bella Donna
3. Highway To Mars
5. One Night In Tokyo
6. Moonlight Rendezvous
7. Revengeance Machine
8. Dark New World
9. To The Last Drop Of Blood
10. Broken Survivors
11. My Dystopia
12. Battle Hymn (Manowar cover)
13. They Don’t Care About Us (Michael Jackson cover)
Kasperi Heikkinen – guitars
Anton Kabanen – guitars, vocals, synthesizers, orchestrations
Mate Molnar – bass
Atte Palokangas – drums
Yannis Papadopoulos – vocals
Cynthia – Synthesizers, keyboards
Produced by Anton Kabanen
Mastered by Emil Pohjalainen at Amethyst Sound Productions
Recorded and mixed by Anton Kabanen at Sound Quest Studio
Additional mixing assistance by Yannis Papadopoulos
All music and lyrics written by Anton Kabanen