Scary Creatures CD/ Souls Of Fire Live DVD
Brainstorm have already returned with a brand new album after releasing a monument in 2014’s Firesoul and it comes with a little bit of a different flair. Whereas Firesoul was lighter and more anthemic, Scary Creatures comes off much heavier and feels a bit more like an experiment of sorts for the band. It doesn’t even feel like a year has passed since their last effort, but that certainly seem to be the case as the band have launched another ten (eleven in the limited edition release) tracks that continue to mark their brand of German heavy metal thunder. While “The World To See” seemed like another thumping day at the office and “How Much More Can You Take” filled my ears with background shouts and bursting guitar amps, one track in particular called out to me and that’s “We Are…” The track in mention is one of the disc’s longer cuts, but I feel that the length is justified, especially since they managed to take two words and make as awesome a chorus out of it as Disturbed did with last year’s “Who.” If one word can make a great chorus, then I’m most certain that two can do just as well. But it’s not just the words themselves that make the song great, as the lead melodies really hold up the weight, almost making it something of epic stature. When the voices of the kids choir also appear on the piece, that only cements the magnificence of this piece, and the power that Brainstorm have as a heavy metal band. Saying little more, you can almost bet that I woke up with the chorus to this one in my head. But don’t get me wrong, as I’m not simply going to sell you a record based on one song – that’s foolish. Also, don’t get me wrong, as I’m not here to sell you the disc at all! Keep in mind that this is my opinion having been a fan of these gentlemen for decades, and yours may differ. However, I don’t feel that fans will be all that upset with such a disc and Andy B. Franck’s highs are just as memorable as they always were.
“Where Angels Dream” didn’t exactly hit me so hard the first time around and I felt that perhaps the chorus didn’t fit, regardless of how well it worked by itself; but upon this second time I feel that this is definitely classic Brainstorm as we remember them. The album’s title cut features a little bit of harsh vocals in the background, as well as some unexpected orchestration. Though I feel the subject matter is a bit cheesy, the chorus is delivered just as well as we’d expect and the dual-axe team of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric certainly slay when given the chance. I must input that this is a much heavier release and relies more on deep and thunderous bass riffs, which we’re definitely hearing here. If for some reason you couldn’t really headbang on the last disc, then you can definitely get your fix with Scary Creatures. While certainly not the best song they’ve ever written (and oddly reminiscent of the work on Soul Temptation) it goes into an unexpected winner in “Twisted Ways” which is one of the best songs I’ve heard from these guys since “We Are…” (chuckles) but seriously, this one’s a real memorable cut, with bright leads and an equally bright chorus. There’s no doubt that this one could be just as much a heavy hitter in the band’s live circuit, and it had me singing along right from the chorus – Now that’s a song. “Caressed By The Blackness” isn’t quite as memorable as “Twisted Ways” but it still manages to stake it’s claim and does so with the fiery bravado that we’ve always expected from these guys. “Scars In Your Eyes” however comes with a much more furious sensibility. It declares, “I can see the scars in your eyes!” which a much more forceful chorus. Instead of the brightly lit choruses that we’ve heard for much of the record, this one comes out like a fist raised high and will undoubtedly be something that the crowd will chant in live shows for years to come. Another one that really pounds is “Take Me To The Never” which sees yet another musclebound chorus number, keeping in line with the previous, albeit lightening things up a little in sake of harmony. It’s a rough and tumble love song, but I’ll definitely take it!
The last song that we get here is “Sky Among The Clouds” which doesn’t hit me as hard as Firesoul‘s “And I Wonder” but very few songs will ever hit me like that. In any case, this piece with it’s almost dreamlike lead melodies makes a noticeable impact that further showcases the power of this nearly legendary German act, who’ve been around for decades and sound just as good as they ever have. There’s an extra track placed here for the limited edition entitled “Lift Your Eyes To See” and it’s a heavier number, albeit a definite B-Side with a questionable method of verse even though it definitely does manage to deliver in the chorus department. It also comes with a surprisingly evil vibe, which doesn’t exactly sit well with the rest of the record. I can say that Brainstorm have made a decidedly darker album this time around, and lyrically it seems to be related to a manipulative and evil power – perhaps those who call themselves the global elite. It’s not really a subject that the band have dealt with before, but this disc seems to be a sort of “stick to the man” type of record that they’re rebellious power and thrash senses seem to convey expertly. Not every song is filled with these ideas, but they seem to pervade throughout the record. While not as strong as their last album, I still think that Scary Creatures deserves it’s place on your shelf and is certainly much better than some of the band’s mid-era efforts, like Memorial Roots for example. Plus, if you get the limited edition, you’re getting something rather remarkable – and I have to split this review into two parts in order to cover that.
The second part of this review deals with the bonus disc. Rather than giving us a few extra songs or a live CD only concert, the band have given us not just a thirty minute, or an hour long live show; but an almost two-hour live DVD performance filmed in Essen during the Souls Of Fire Tour. This 2014 concert DVD spans their full history, containing everything from fan favorites like “Highs Without Lows” and “Shiva’s Tears” but also new favorites, like “Recall The Real” and “And I Wonder.” The show is shot in a small, yet packed house and features several ecstatic fans (called Brainiacs) really getting into the music. But I can see why, as everything that the band perform here is reproduced from the respective albums with a larger than life quality, yet still retaining a bit of a raw vibe that house shows usually offer. The guitars and drums are certainly audible, with Torsten Ihlenfeld really showing his stuff, especially when it comes to the solos which he nails every time. Additionally Milan Loncaric and even bassist Antonio Ieva get together and perform a colossal trinity of axen might in which all three put their power into some of the more complex tracks, like “And I Wonder” which goes over with the fans just as well as “Shiva’s Tears” which comes directly after it. Andy B. Franck is in absolute top form, looking a whole lot different from the young man I remember performing on a Wacken DVD back in 04. He no longer jumps around on the stage, and seems more mature in his stance – but that could be due to the fact that he and the rest of the band have grown considerably older. The very fact that they’re still up and running, as well as delivering notable hits is quite a spectacle in itself. The band heads out on classic “Fire Walk With Me” before coming back in with “All Those Words” in which Franck leads an absolutely enthralled crowd of fans in chant, which leads all of the way through the rest of the song and then some. He even pulled a metalhead onto the stage that was being carried by the horde, and the guy banged his head profusely before Franck held the microphone up to him as he chanted along with the rest of the crowd.
In any case, this hugely retrospective show is performed well enough to appeal to any Brainstorm fan and serves as a retrospective of their lengthy history as German heavy metal vets. It also takes what would normally be a three-star review and bumps it up to a four-star, just because of the inclusion of such a wonderful live show that you’ll probably watch again and again, and possibly more than you’ll listen to the album itself. It’s just that good, especially being performed during one of the band’s greatest eras in recent memory. Even if Scary Creatures isn’t Brainstorm’s most memorable album, after a show like that one we soon realize that these Germans have nothing more that they need to prove. They’ve already shown us how well their songs stand up in this era and the strength of heavy metal in an age of musical fodder. The very fact that they’re still at it after all these years is a sign of musical commitment that some of us can only begin to understand. If you’re going to pick up Scary Creatures this year, be sure to grab the one with this spectacular DVD concert. Trust me, you won’t regret it, as it’s easily the band at their very best. (Eric May)