Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: January 21st, 2022
Genre: Heavy Metal
Noora Louhimo – Vocals
Joona Björkroth – Guitars
Juuso Soinio – Guitars
Eero Sipilä – Bass
Janne Björkroth – Keyboards
Pyry Vikki – Drums
1. Circus of Doom
2. Wings of Light
3. Master of Illusion
4. Where Angels Fear to Fly
5. Eye of the Storm
6. Russian Roulette
8. The Road to Avalon
10. The Place That We Call Home
It’s no secret Battle Beast went through a tough stretch a few years back, after the departure of founding member Anton Kabanen, who has since gone on to have great success with his current band Beast in Black. Before his departure, the band had released three very well-regarded albums, with their self-titled release, in particular, is widely praised, while the final album with Kabanen, Unholy Savior, has always been my personal favorite for its greater emphasis on power metal. Trying to live up to their early work would have been tough, so it was no surprise the band changed things up a bit on their following album, Bringer of Pain, going for a slightly lighter, more keyboard-driven style that at times felt a bit watered down, and indeed, the album had a rather mixed reception from longtime fans. Things only took a turn for the worse with No More Hollywood Endings, an album which still had its moments of classic heavy metal and power metal, but it also had a couple of tracks that fell pretty deep into that often dreaded “pop” territory, which did not please a portion of the fan base. Personally, I’ve enjoyed every Battle Beast album to date, though even I was hoping that album would be as far as they’d go into experimenting with more radio-friendly material. Almost three years later, the band has just released their sixth full-length album, Circus of Doom, and while I’m not sure absolutely everyone will love it, I’d say it’s by far the best thing the band has released with their current lineup, as well as a much welcome return to form.
Starting with Bringers of Pain, it felt like the band had been pushing the guitars aside quite a bit in their music, letting the cheesy, retro-sounding keyboards lead the way more often than not. I personally enjoy this side of the band, but many folks do not, to say the least. With Circus of Doom, the band has kept the keys intact, as well as increased the use of symphonic elements found on previous albums, while at the same time, they’ve brought back a lot of that intense, classic heavy metal guitar work from early albums, to help make this album feel like a combination of everything the band has done before. There’s still some super catchy songwriting that occasionally flirts a bit with pop influences, but here it’s largely toned down to choruses and brief vocal lines, while musically this is still very much a metal album, even if it does occasionally fall more into modern melodic metal territory than anything else. There’s nothing that comes close to the level of “pop” that was “Endless Summer”, thankfully.
On the heavier side of things, the guitar work feels more energetic and more prominent than it has been for a while, with most songs having some nice, crunchy riffs, as well as some very epic melodic guitar solos, even on the softer tracks. The more power metal-influenced tracks are my clear favorites, but I also love the increased use of symphonic elements, which at times feels influenced by Nightwish, but the band does an excellent job of blending it in with their usual sound so that the songs still stand out. There’s a nice variety of tracks here, with plenty of heavy hitters such as my personal favorite “Wings of Light” and “Eye of the Storm”, as well as some lighter material in “Where Angels Fear to Fly”, and “Russian Roulette”, as well as a lot of in-between. Fans of different sides of the band’s sound should each find something to enjoy here, and I do think fans of their older sound should at least prefer this over their previous two albums.
Performances are excellent across the board, as expected. The keyboards are as prominent as ever, often providing flavor for the music, and Janne Björkroth does an amazing job, as always, whether he’s using more trance infused sounds, more classic 80’s rock sounds, or going for something a bit more epic, he pulls everything off brilliantly. Dual guitarists Joona Björkroth and Juuso Soinio are also given a ton of room to work with, instantly impressing right from the opening riff of the title track, and shining even more on tracks like “Wings of Light” and “Freedom”. Though the biggest standout member of the band remains vocalist Noora Louhimo, who has always been an excellent singer, she seems to only be getting better and better over time. On this album she sounds fiercer and more powerful than she has in a long time, letting out some epic heavy metal wails at times, while infusing the heavier tracks with an extra layer of power that takes them to a whole new level. At the same time, she’s still as great at toning things down and carrying a softer, more melodic track than ever before, and shines on catchier, more vocal-driven tracks such as “Russian Roulette” and “The Road to Avalon”.
One issue I had with No More Hollywood Endings was that while it started strong and ended even stronger, it faded a bit in the middle, with all of its weaker tracks placed fairly close together. That is not the case with Circus of Doom, as while there are some softer tracks, they’re spread out fairly evenly, with heavier tracks always placed close to them so metal fans need not wait very long to be satisfied again. It also helps that the songwriting is fantastic all around, being both one of the band’s most varied albums to date, as well as possibly their most consistently entertaining from start to finish.
Things get off to a strong start with the title track, a very epic opener where the symphonic elements are pushed to the front of the sound, giving the track a very theatrical feel, while occasionally being used to produce a circus feeling that vibes well with the lyrics and overall feel of the track. At the same time, there’s also some heavy guitar work to be found, especially in the verses, though, of course, it’s Louhimo who steals the show, with her vocals being as smooth and powerful as always, especially shining during the chorus and late song bridge section where she gets to go all out, along with some epic choir vocals. Overall, it’s an excellent track and a very strong opening.
It only gets better from there, with “Wings of Light” being one of the heaviest, most energetic tracks on the album. The main riff and keyboard melodies feel like they came straight out of a faster-paced Sabaton track, and the rest of the song follows suit, moving at a very fast pace, while still giving Louhimo plenty of room to work with, especially on the chorus, which is one of the catchiest, most fun choruses on the album. There’s also a fantastic guitar solo in the second half. There are two, one coming before the final chorus and one particularly stunning one coming right at the end of the track, along with more epic vocals. Overall, it’s an instant winner of a track and my personal favorite here.
Lead single “Master of Illusion” is next, and it’s another great one, falling into the more mid-tempo territory, but it does a great job of mixing some heavy guitar work with some light keys, and some very catchy vocal lines, with Louhimo once again stealing the show during the chorus, as usual. This is the kind of lighter, catchier track the band has been doing throughout their career, but while their attempts at this sound on the previous two albums felt just a bit lacking, this one has much more energy to it, both in the guitars and the overall sound, and that makes a world of difference.
The first potentially divisive track is next, in “Where Angels Fear to Fly”. This one took some time to grow on me, though I’ve come to love it over time. It’s a very soft, very keyboard-driven track, which again gives me strong Sabaton vibes, though this time it feels more like some of their softer tracks, except even softer than that. It’s a very light, very vocal-heavy track, and of course, the chorus and vocal melodies overall are fantastic, while musically there are some bouncy keys, and guitars play a largely supportive role, though they are still noticeable, especially during the epic guitar solo towards the end. The energy level comes right back up with a second single “Eye of the Storm”, another faster-paced track with some very nice melodic guitar work, fast-paced verses, and a fantastic chorus with some amazing vocal lines. It’s one of the fastest, most guitar-driven tracks on the album, and is fantastic the whole way through.
Another track I wasn’t too sure about at first is “Russian Roulette”, which starts with more circus-themed keyboards, before settling into a nice groove for the verses. It’s another very keyboard-driven track, with a bit of that bouncy pop feel to it, though it has more energy than any similar tracks on No More Hollywood Endings, and does have little sparks of great guitar work here there. The chorus is super catchy, as expected, and is the highlight of the track. The pattern of alternating between soft and heavy tracks continues with “Freedom”, which starts with some very nice melodic guitar work and some epic chants, before launching into some heavy riffs, and then going full speed ahead. It’s one of the most powerful metal-influenced tracks on the album, moving very fast during the verses, and only slowing down slightly for a more relaxed, yet still epic chorus, with more fantastic vocals. It’s a track that does a great job of combining some heavy guitar work, with the lighter keys, allowing them to complement each other, and of course, the vocals are there to tie everything together.
Yet another track where the band does a great job of combining metal with other influences is “Road to Avalon”, which has a bit of a dance feel to it with the keys, especially during the verses, but there’s enough heavy guitar work throughout to keep it feeling metal, as well as great solo in the second half. It’s another light, upbeat, and very catchy track where the vocal melodies especially shine, and Louhimo gets to showcase some of her softer vocals. As expected, the next track “Armageddon”, picks up the pace once again, offering up some heavy guitar work during the verses, to combine with some epic keys during yet another very addictive chorus, that stands as one of the album’s best. It’s a super catchy track, with the right amount of heaviness, melody, and pure fun to help make it a real treat. Closing out the album is “The Place That We Call Home”, an epic symphonic power metal track that ranks as probably my second favorite on the album. It has a very distinct feel to it, being almost as epic as the title track while being much heavier, faster-paced, and more guitar-driven. The verses are fairly calm and do a nice job of building things up, but once the chorus hits, it might just be the most epic piece of music I’ve ever heard from Battle Beast, and falls squarely into epic symphonic power metal territory in the absolute best way possible. Louhimo shines, as always, while the vocal melodies are fantastic, and the mix of guitars, keyboards, and symphonic arrangements is perfect, so that it has an epic cinematic feel, while still being very metal. Fantastic track, and a perfect way to close out the album.
Going into Circus of Doom, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Battle Beast anymore, as their previous two albums, while still highly enjoyable, felt like they were moving further away from metal and into lighter territory. With this album, the band has brought back that mix of classic heavy/power metal and combined it with their more modern styling to help make for possibly their best album to date, and one that very much feels like a summary of their career up to this point, as well as one that builds on everything they’ve learned on their previous albums, taking what worked and building on it, while cutting off or limiting parts that didn’t quite work out. Fans of the band should enjoy this much more than the band’s previous two albums, while newcomers would be highly recommended to check this album out, as its a great starting point, and could help determine which side of the band’s music works best for each listener on an individual level. I’ve enjoyed all of the band’s past work, and I think this may just be my all-time favorite release of theirs, dethroning my previous favorite Unholy Savior.
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.