Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: February 8th, 2019
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Yannis Papadopoulos – Vocals
Anton Kabanen – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Kasperi Heikkinen – Guitars
Mate Molnar – Bass
Atte Palokangas – Drums
- Cry Out for a Hero
- From Hell With Love
- Sweet True Lies
- Die by the Blade
- Unlimited Sin
- True Believer
- This is War
- Heart of Steel
- No Surrender
The combination of heavy/power metal is one that’s obviously been done a lot over the years, originating with the likes of Grave Digger, Primal Fear and others, but while some bands within that style can be fairly predictable, others have found ways to innovate and throw in many surprises to help take their music to the next level.
One of my favorite composers in the field is Anton Kabanen, who started out making three very strong releases with Finnish band Battle Beast, before parting ways with the band in 2015, and then starting his own new band called Beast in Black. While Battle Beast has moved into a slightly lighter, more accessible direction,
Anton has continued evolving his sound and managed to create possibly his best album to date with Berserker in 2017, an album that picked up from where he left off with his former band, while also moving in a new, more keyboard driven direction, and throwing in a ton of surprises to help make it feel equal parts fresh and familiar, in the best way possible.
Now, nearly a year and a half later, he’s back with the second Beast in Black release, From Hell With Love, and this time he has taken things even further, creating his catchiest, most consistently entertaining album to date, and one that builds upon everything that made the previous release special and improves upon it, resulting in the first masterpiece I’ve heard in 2019!
Fans of Berserker, as well as the second and third Battle Beast albums, should have a pretty good idea of what to expect here, as From Hell With Love is very much in line with any of Anton’s previous releases, stylistically.
So, you can expect to hear a nice mix of heard hitting guitar work, speedy power metal tempos, some more mid paced rhythms, extremely fun and catchy choruses, and an extremely wide range of keyboard work, with everything from more modern electronic keys, to classic 80’s synth and even some parts that go into disco territory. Yes, Anton clearly loves 80’s music, and so his albums always have a ton of that influence to them, with this one being no exception.
Apart from the weird dance elements, there’s also hints of classic AOR on a couple tracks, which was also true of the debut. At the same time, fans of heavy metal can still expect some heavy guitar work at times, as well as some more epic, melodic heavy metal, to go along with all the catchiness and keyboard insanity. Performances are absolutely amazing across the board, with the keyboards in particular standing out, once again, though the guitar work is also impressive, being equal parts heavy and very melodic at different times, with some of the solos in particular being technically solid, but also quite beautiful.
Songwriting has proven to be one of Anton’s biggest strengths over the years, and so it’s no surprise that this album is both consistently engaging, and extremely varied, with some faster tracks,some more mid paced tracks, a ballad, a couple of tracks that lean heavily into that kinda disco mixed with AOR sound I described, and in general the songs are just ridiculously fun and addictive, just like with the debut, except where that release had a couple tracks that didn’t quite impress me, this one is absolutely flawless. In fact, that’s the one real difference here: Stylistically, it’s very much in line with Berserker, and it doesn’t have anything as surprising as “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, but on a song to song level, the level of energy and excitement never slips even in the slightest, and so that’s what helps make it an even better release than the band’s already amazing debut. I think track placement is the key, here, as there are no points where the pacing slips off, thanks to the tracks being placed in such a way that you’re never getting too much of one sound right together, which was the only slight complaint I had with the debut. Obviously, the production is absolutely perfect, and everything sounds amazing, as usual.
One other area that’s as reliably great as ever, is the vocals. Yannis Papadopoulos had his major breakthrough performance on Berserker, after being with a couple other bands previously (most notably Wardrum), and doing a solid job, but he was certainly never as dynamic or as exciting before as he was on Berserker. This continues on From Hell With Love, as his full vocal range is once again on display, with him doing everything from crazy falsettos, to lighter, more melodic vocals, to some very soft, almost feminine vocals, to some pure, intense heavy metal vocals. The amount of range he displays is spectacular, and the fact that he can pull everything off so fluidly, so seamlessly and with so much skill in every area, just goes to show how great a singer he truly is. While the music is already excellent, Yannis definitely takes the songs to the next level, and is one of the absolute best things about the band, along with the keyboards and songwriting.
Speaking of songwriting, the album wastes absolutely no time at the start, opening up with one of its best tracks in “Cry Out for a Hero”, a speedy, epic, bombastic power metal track, with an insanely catchy chorus, with a great mix between some of Anton’s heavier guitar work, as well as some 80’s sounding synths. Yannis mostly sticks with his wild heavy metal vocals and falsetto on this one, and excels during the chorus, while Anton provides a very melodic and beautiful guitar solo in the second half. Overall, it’s a very fun track, and an excellent way to start the album. Things start taking a (not so surprising) turn for the weird with the title track, with some very 80’s sounding synths, and a beat that certainly falls into disco territory. Yep, this is a fun, mid paced stomper of a track with a very retro sound to it, mixing some occasionally heavy guitar work, with disco beats, cheesy keyboards and a very fun, insanely catchy chorus. It’s the exact kind of thing that Anton has proven to be an expert at with his past couple of albums, as well as being very unique in the metal world, and being one of the things that helps make Beast in Black distinct from any other metal band, as it’s certainly not something you’ll ever hear from anything else.
Up next is another 80’s sounding track in “Sweet True Lies”, the lead single. It has a classic AOR sound, with some very melodic guitar work, as well as an extensive use of synths, though not in the kinda bouncy way of the title track, but in a more relaxed way, as is common for the genre. It has a slight hard rock edge to it, and the main melody certainly reminds me of some Bon Jovi tracks. It’s a very fun, insanely catchy track, with an amazing chorus, and it shows Yannis expertly alternating between his softer and more powerful vocals. The second single, “Die by the Blade” is also very old school, with more of those cheesy, yet absolutely delightful keyboards, though it’s a slightly more upbeat track, feeling like 80’s music mixed with modern power metal, in an absolutely amazing way. It moves at a slow pace during the verses, before speeding up and becoming quite intense and epic during the chorus, and it has another melodic, technical and beautiful guitar solo in the second half. In between those two tracks is “Repentless”, which must have had the band borrowing a dictionary from Slayer. Anyway, it’s another insanely fun, very epic track, with an extensive use of sytnth horns, as well as having a slight symphonic feel to its keyboards. It’s one of the more modern sounding tracks here, and it moves at a great pace, with a pretty fast, heavy and insanely addictive chorus, while Yannis stays mostly aggressive with his vocals, getting slightly theatrical during the chorus. It’s a really fun track overall, and probably one of my favorites.
The lone ballad of the album is “Oceandeep”, and it’s another track with a slight use of symphonic elements, while being a very beautiful, mostly acoustic guitar led, track with some amazing soft vocals from Yannis, where he uses some of his more feminine sounding vocals to great effect early on, before opening up with some more powerful vocals towards the middle, which gives way to an absolutely amazing, very emotional, guitar solo, before the song closes out fairly quietly. I find it to be slightly better than “Ghost in the Rain”, from the debut, though perhaps having it in the middle of the album, instead of the end, is a part of that.
Moving towards the end, we have “Unlimited Sin”, which is yet another song driven by 80’s sounding synths and a slight disco feel, with a very cool rhythm to it, while still having a metal edge and having some strong vocals during the verses, which lead into one of the catchiest, and most amazing choruses on the album. It’s yet another insanely addictive track, and probably one of my favorites here. However, things only get better with “True Believer”, a song which combines classic AOR and power metal in the absolute most delightful way possible. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Dragony’s cover of the David Hasselhoff song “True Survivor”, except it’s somehow even more epic and more insanely fun and catchy than that was, with the keyboards just sounding amazing, and Yannis totally steals the show during the chorus, being slightly edgy, yet still melodic and very smooth at the same time. It’s one of the most hopelessly addictive songs I’ve ever heard on a metal album, and it manages to be equal parts retro and cheesy, yet still heavy at the same time. I think only Anton would be crazy enough to attempt such a thing, but I sure am glad he did! Moving back into heavier territory, “This is War” is an epic, mid tempo heavy metal song, with some heavy guitar work during the verses, before opening up for a very melodic and catchy chorus. It’s one of the more guitar driven tracks here, with another great solo in the second half, while still having some nice sounding keyboards, during the choruses, and in a really beautiful section near the end. It also references Battle Beast’s debut in the lyrics, which is pretty neat. After that is “Heart of Steel”, which is every bit as epic and cheesy as its name would suggest, bringing in some more delightful 80’s sounding synths. It’s a more relaxed track, moving at a fairly slow pace during its verses, while picking up slightly for a heavy, yet very epic and fun chorus, where Yannis shines, as always. It gets more epic as it goes along, with the second chorus being more eventful than the first, bringing in some choral elements, and then the solo section is quite amazing, as usual.
Closing out the album is “No Surrender”, a fast paced power metal track, which manages to strike a perfect balance between heavy guitar work, light sounding keyboards and some amazing vocals from Yannis. In fact, the chorus might be some of his best work on the album, as he’s equal parts intense, epic and very melodic at the same time. Of course, the chorus itself is incredible as well, and the song has some of the best melodies on the album, while also being one of the heavier and faster tracks. It’s probably my favorite, just because I love speedy power metal when it’s done perfectly, as it is here, though every song on the album is fantastic. It, of course, has another very melodic, and very beautiful guitar solo, with some of Anton’s best work on the album, and overall it’s a much stronger finish than what their debut had, which is probably another reason I’d give this album the slight edge over that one. The physical digipak edition includes two bonus tracks, which are covers of “Killed by Death” by Motorhead, and “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper, though neither of those are on my promo copy, so I can’t comment on them.
I was expecting a lot from Beast in Black, after their debut proved to be amazing and by far my favorite release from mastermind Anton Kabanen up to that point, but I was not prepared to be as completely, utterly floored by From Hell With Love as I have been! It’s an absolutely flawless album, which seamlessly blends together elements of heavy/power metal, with some classic 80’s sounding synths, some disco beats, and all kinds of epic, crazy melodies. Fans of the debut, as well as the first three Battle Beast albums, shouldn’t need me to tell them this one’s a must hear, while fans of heavy metal and power metal looking for something fresh and unique, as well as anyone looking for an incredibly fun and addictive album, should definitely give this one a try. I’m sure there will be many great releases to come in 2019, but Beast in Black have certainly set the bar very high!