Brainstorm – Firesoul (AFM Records)Sunday, 13th April 2014
Residing in the ‘heavier’ power metal camp than most of the uplifting spawn of Helloween contemporaries, German veterans Brainstorm steadily carve out a healthy swath of fans thanks to their consistently above-average to strong output. Fortunate to start my affinity for the band in the pre-Andy B. Franck fronted years through their second album Unholy in 1998, they’ve become a headlining entity for quite a while in mainland Europe, and also shown their talent in North America at the prestigious ProgPower festival versions five and ten.
Firesoul is the tenth studio platter for the group, and one may wonder if Brainstorm seek to tackle new pastures in terms of streamlining/commercializing their hooks or sound, or appear content to pump out their familiar, attacking brand of power that many liking to a tougher Judas Priest-meets-classic Vicious Rumors. Based on my multiple playbacks of these 10 songs, I would lean slightly towards the latter template, although much of drummer Dieter Bernert’s kit speed and general execution has been dialed back a touch to favor the guitar action of Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric.
Standouts are numerous: If you prefer solid anthems inducing audience soccer chants and fist waving worldwide, let “Entering Solitude” or the title track (and sinister video to match) whet your aural appetite. Those who desire something more musical or dynamically touching, the 6:20 “Recall the Real” features some of the best lower to middle register work of Mr. Franck’s career. And the lovers of dual, synchronized guitar harmonies will find favor to “Shadowseeker” or the fiery “Descendants of the Fire.” Keeping keyboard sounds to an added nuance level allows the listener to appreciate the quintet’s focus on basic arrangements and professional musical execution.
Ultimately, Brainstorm understand that their street level approach has plenty of fuel left in the proverbial idea tank – so those into darker power chords and addictive, multi-part vocal choruses will not have any problem enjoying Firesoul – keeping power metal alive and thriving in 2014.