Album review: BRAINSTORM – Wall Of Skulls

AFM Records [release date 17.09.21]

Judging by this new release, Brainstorm turned the pandemic related lockdown to good advantage, in writing and recording Wall Of Skulls. It’s no more than an incremental step up from last album, Midnight Ghost, but it further cements their position as a leading practitioner of European Power Metal.

Cool opener, the beautifully composed baroque cantata, ‘Chamber Thirteen’, is only 2 minutes long, but it will linger in your consciousness well after the last track ends.
The explosive burst of first track proper, ‘Where Ravens Fly’ initially seems like an intrusion, but we’re soon tuned into the band’s wide wall of sound and clipped, punchy riffola.

On their thirteenth studio album now (who said Power Metal wouldn’t last?), the band have cultivated a darker, more menacing MO. ‘My Dystopia’ and ‘Stigmatized’ nudge the needle further into the shadowy world of 21st century Power Metal. Torsten Ihlenfeld’s and Milan Loncaric’s guitars are an omnipresent background, as vocalist Andy B Franck’s lyrics denounce social disintegration. Their joined up axework ebbs and flows around repeated motifs, harmonising with Franck’s soaring voice and pronounced enunciation, adding further character to the lyrics.

Tracks like the standouts, ‘Solitude’ and ‘Glory Disappears’ smoulder encouragingly, cutting against the grain, always on the point of ignition. But it doesn’t happen, and that’s the secret, they keep us on the edge, holding our attention.

There are echoes still of Brit “power metal” bands of the 80s like Priest and Maiden. But those echoes are fading now. German Power Metal has fastened itself into a rocket ride of fist pumping anthems (‘Escape The Silence’, ‘Turn Off The Light’), fuelled by thick cut riffs and the propulsive thud of powerful snare/ bass drum rhythms.

Even a less than forensic analysis would confirm that there has been little develoment in Brainstorm’s Power Metal sound since its inception, in 1989. An observation noted by the music press.
Thirteen albums on, Brainstorm remain unmoved.

The band is playing the Boston Music Rooms in London on 3 October, a double bill with Tri-State Corner. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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