Ever since they waltzed off with the coveted Wacken Open Air Metal Battle Contest in 2010, Helsinki’s Battle Beast has been growing in confidence and prominence, surely helped by the backing of label giants Nuclear Blast, who snapped up the sextet not long after the release of debut album “Steel” in 2011. Since then, however, there have been changes afoot, with original vocalist Nitte Valo replaced by Noora Louhimo in time for the release of their self-titled sophomore album, a 48 minute exercise in classic heavy metal worship adorned with a generous helping of over-ripe cheese.
Yes, for Battle Beast, the 2000s, 90s, and indeed most of the 80s never happened. They inhabit a realm where denim, leather and balls-to-the-wall vintage heavy metal reign supreme, and on “Battle Beast”, they’ve made a pretty good attempt to seize the crown. Opener ‘Let It Roar’ has everything you could want; chugging riffs, bouncy keyboards and Louhimo demonstrating what an impressive set of pipes she has. The hooks are sweet rather than sickly and the firm production job gives the guitars enough power to sound pretty damn triumphant. ‘Out of Control’ comes next… and follows exactly the same pattern. This is über-slick metal for the masses, and therein lies the problem.
While Battle Beast are technically proficient, look the part, and have all the right ingredients to succeed, they come across as a throwback to a semi-classic bygone age that has been dug up, neatly repackaged and set loose to chase down the cash nestled in the faded denim pockets of that certain breed of metal fan who still buys Accept and Doro records. The formulaic songwriting begins to grate after only a couple of songs, and if the likes of the frankly awful ‘Black Ninja’ are anything to go by, we are witnessing the return of the cheese that used to clog the 80s airwaves and wasn’t cleaned away until Iron Maiden released “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” in 1988.
While clearly influenced by the aforementioned Doro, Noora Louhimo’s vocals sound contrived, switching between a sugary X-Factor croon and a strained caterwauling during some of the ‘heavier’ sections. However, this record will sell plenty and the band seem tailor-made for a mid-afternoon slot at Bloodstock and Wacken, which thanks to their major label backing will no doubt pose no problem, and the many fans they will gain with their instantly accessible style will give weight to their cause. But if you want a more authentic exercise in metal nostalgia, pick up the latest effort from Enforcer and chug a few beers instead.