Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost (AFM Records)Sunday, 30th September 2018
Quintessential power metal act Brainstorm have put themselves in an enviable position in the scene. Reliable to a fault, any time they’ve stretched themselves into possibly ‘greener’ or commercial/modern pastures for Memorial Roots and the follow up On the Spur of the Moment, they didn’t lose their core fan ebase – but hit the reset button to get back to their proven platform for Firesoul and Scary Creatures. Bringing in Orden Ogan’s Seeb Levermann as a producer on their twelfth studio record Midnight Ghost is brilliant – an ardent fan first beyond his vision for capturing the quintet at their best through these ten songs.
The lyrical topics this go around deal with childhood fears and stories related to what scares you under your bed, around the corner, lurking in the cupboard, or chasing you in the forest during the darkness. Musically sharp through robust rhythms and catchy guitar harmony sequences of a mid-tempo to slightly faster variety, songs such as “Revealing the Darkness” and “Divine Inner Ghost” hearken memories of early Andy Franck-led outings such as Ambiguity and personal favorite Liquid Monster, where the band took Vicious Rumors-oriented riffing and channeled their natural German flavor to make the hooks, melodies, and segments come alive. Propulsive double bass and speedy guitars along with supplementary orchestration in spots gives opener “Devil’s Eye” that energy elevation right out of the gate long-timers yearn to savor, along with a background choir ‘woah…oh…oh…oh…oh’ element ready made for sing-a-longs. Seeb’s presence becomes apparent in the smaller details – the knack for his biting guitar tone but symphonic nature to twin harmonies, and the ability to get grandiose choir harmonies from Andy B. Franck throughout. The versatility of an almost gallop, thrash-oriented “The Pyre” giving way to an epic arrangement for “Jeanne Boulet (1764)” that features acoustic guitars, bell supplementation, and a semi-doom swing keeps the running order steady, devoid of any possible boredom tendencies. By the time the closing power ballad “The Path” rings out it’s final clean acoustic passages, you feel that Midnight Ghost ends on that proper reflective note.
Add in the stunning Gyula Havancsák bedroom illustration on the cover, and it’s hard to believe that this deep into their recording career Brainstorm could deliver another pinnacle release. And yet they have – and yes, you should own this especially if you love strong power metal and memorable choruses/hooks.