Burning Point – Arsonist of the Soul (AFM Records)Wednesday, 27th October 2021
Putting decades into a band can be a topsy-turvy experience – ups and downs a parallel that mirrors life. Mastermind guitarist/songwriter Pete Ahonen has been there for Burning Point since their late 90’s start, handling the vocals up to 2014 before ex-Battle Beast singer Nitte Valo stepped in for 2015’s self-titled outing and the follow-up in 2016 The Blaze. Now five years later, the lineup as a sextet has significant changes going into Arsonist of the Soul – with Pete and fellow guitarist Pekka Kolivuori the lone survivors from that last record. Choosing to stay the course in a familiar melodic power metal style done the European way, the band add a bit of modern touch in the production realm while also executing a few traditional/classic touches over the course of these twelve songs.
Speedy guitar runs, double kick intensity, and higher range delivery ensure a fanbase that craves a certain upper echelon quality to the proceedings even amidst numerous lineup changes. Well rest assured the double fisted barrage of “Blast from the Past” and “Rules the Universe” will land in that ideal aural sweet spot – especially for those who miss classic Stratovarius or Labyrinth. Mixing up the normal adrenaline pumping numbers with mid-tempo and slower, semi-epic efforts showcases the breadth of Pete’s abilities as a songwriter – tracks like “Calling” and the title track digging deep into the well of Rainbow/Black Sabbath circa the Ronnie James Dio and Tony Martin-eras as far as crushing, slower riffs, catchy, emotive melodies, and thoughtful interplay between the two guitarists and keyboardist Matti Halonen during the instrumental sections/transitions. The vocal abilities of Italian-born / Finnish living Luca Sturiolo could be a slight stumbling block for many to embrace the current lineup a bit more. He certainly can hit some sinister high notes a la Timo Kotipelto/Rob Halford (check out “Off the Radar”), but also struggles a bit with some mid-range warble (most evident in the strained chorus of “Rules the Universe”) that may need to be worked out down the line on the next record. Burning Point understands how to build intensity and also let other material breathe – “Fire with Fire” more of a pounding metal track in an Accept-like manner, before ending the record on more of a bombastic/heroic note for “Eternal Life” full of that keyboard/guitar cultural backdrop and movements that shatter glass.
For this scribe’s money, Arsonist of the Soul should keep Burning Point followers satisfied, and possibly bring a few newcomers into the fold – starting a solid new chapter for this veteran power metal group.