Album Reviews

Brainstorm – Wall of Skulls Review

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: September 17th, 2021

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: https://www.brainstorm-web.net/

 

Line Up:

Andy B. Franck – Vocals

Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitar

Milan Loncaric – Guitar

Antonio Ieva – Bass

Dieter Bernert – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Chamber Thirteen

2. Where Ravens Fly

3. Solitude

4. Escape the Silence

5. Turn Off the Light

6. Glory Disappears

7. My Dystopia

8. End of My Innocence

9. Stigmatized (Shadows Fall)

10. Holding On

11. I, the Deceiver

12. Cold Embrace (Limited Edition Bonus Track)

 

 

At this point, there’s no need to go into detail on how recent world events have affected the music industry, but suffice to say, pretty much any band in the world has had to adjust in some way or another. It can be especially hard for a band who seemed to be gaining momentum in a big way in recent years, such as German power metal band Brainstorm, coming off possibly their most successful and well-regarded album to date in Midnight Ghost. I thought the album was for sure one of the band’s better efforts, though not quite on the level of personal favorites Soul Temptation or Firesoul. Needless to say, it took the band longer than usual to come up with the follow-up, Wall of Skulls, and while I’m sure there are many different reasons for that, the most important thing is the band has taken full advantage of the time they had for this record, and made a followup that is even stronger than their previous release, and easily one of my top three favorites by them!
Fans of Brainstorm should know full well what to expect, 13 albums into their career, and Wall of Skulls doesn’t offer any big surprises. I’d say stylistically it’s as prototypical a Brainstorm album as you could find, offering a perfect blend of their usual mix of aggressive riffs, melodic choruses, huge vocal melodies, and the occasional more somber pieces. Unlike their previous few albums, which each contained a couple of different or somewhat experimental tracks, Wall of Skulls is very fun and straightforward throughout. Some may be worried this would result in a predictable, forgettable album, but instead, the band sounds more energetic and inspired than they have since Firesoul, and the lack of any surprises has only given more room for the band to do what they do best, and that is writing plenty of heavy, yet melodic and catchy heavy/power metal tracks.

As usual, the driving forces behind the album are the duo guitar team of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric, as well as the always fantastic voice of Andy B. Franck, who sounds as smooth yet powerful as ever on this album. I’ve always found the latter especially to be one of my favorite singers in this genre, and the songs on this album once again allow him to shine, with some of the band’s best choruses ever, and he gets to show equal amounts of power, precision, and warmth to his voice, pulling everything off perfectly. Production is also top-notch, as expected, with all instruments and vocals being mixed fluidly, and there are no issues in that department. The whole band sounds at the top of their game on this album, and performances are fantastic across the board.

The one area that always determines how much I enjoy a Brainstorm album is the songwriting, with some of their albums having a mix of instant hits and the occasional miss, while others are more consistent throughout. I found Midnight Ghosts had an extremely strong first half, with some of my favorite songs by the band, while the second half didn’t have any weak moments, but I felt it was a bit less inspired and energetic overall, not quite matching up with the band’s best efforts. This time around, though, the band has delivered a consistently excellent album from start to finish, with the first half easily being on par with that of the previous album, while the second half is nearly as good, with not a single track being anything less than great.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest standouts are the singles. Opening track “Where Ravens Fly” is the kind of hard-hitting, energetic, fast, and furious power metal the band excels at, paired with a slowed down, but very melodic and catchy chorus, as well as a typically strong solo section. Lead single “Escape the Silence” is even heavier and more energetic, with one of the band’s best choruses to date, as well as a steady mix of killer riffs and soaring melodies, enhanced further by an intense bridge section where Rage vocalist Peter “Peavy” Wagner makes a brief appearance, leading into an extremely epic solo section. The third single, “Glory Disappears” initially seems far more subdued, starting with a brief soft section that almost feels like a ballad, before the band briefly introduces the chorus, which is the standout moment of the track, featuring some of their strongest vocal melodies I’ve ever heard, as well as a stunning, emotional and powerful vocal performance from Franck that greatly enhances an already amazing song. I initially preferred the first two singles, but over time this one has grown to become my favorite on the album, as well as one of my favorites by the band, overall.

While those three tracks are the highlights, the rest of the album doesn’t fall too far behind. Another big standout is “Turn off the Light”, yet another speedy, energetic track with hard-hitting verses and a frantic, yet melodic chorus, with more fantastic vocal melodies. The highlight of this track comes in the second verse, where Orden Ogan’s Sebestian “Seeb” Levermann” takes over vocals and does a fantastic job, as always. On the softer side of things, “Solitude” is the darkest, slowest track on the album, with fairly laid-back verses giving way to an unsurprisingly strong, catchy chorus. Despite being slower and softer than the rest of the album, it still has some great guitar work, and the performances and melodies are energetic enough to help make it another instant favorite.

In the second half of the album, speedy tracks like “My Dystopia”, “Stigmatized (Shadows Fall” and bonus track “Cold Embrace” provide more high octane power metal, while “End of My Innocence” and Holding On” are a bit slower, but still fairly upbeat, and are both excellent tracks in their own right. The second half, on the whole, keeps up the quality very well, but the highlight is the closing track “I the Deceiver”, another heavy, fast-paced yet melodic track with a super killer chorus. In general, I find this album is perhaps the band’s most power-metal-oriented album to date, with plenty of upbeat, high-energy tracks, and this closing track is the perfect way for it to end.

Whenever Brainstorm releases an album, I always know I’ll enjoy it, and I know there will always be at least a few songs that fully blow me away, but the real question is whether or not the whole album will leave me impressed. After a couple of albums in a row where I felt the band delivered some standouts as well as the occasional track that fell a bit short, this time around they have fully delivered, with Wall of Skulls being one of their most consistently entertaining albums to date while offering a steady balance of speedy, hard-hitting power metal and some more mid-paced, melodic heavy metal tracks. It’s definitely one of their most energetic albums to date, so power fans, in particular, should be very pleased, but even the few slower tracks feel more inspired than usual, and overall it’s simply an excellent album from start to finish.

 

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

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