Bringer of Pain was a big record for Battle Beast. Having acrimoniously parted ways with founder and main composer Anton Kabanen prior to the writing sessions, the pressure was on the remaining members to prove that they could hold their own without their head honcho. Offering a more streamlined, pop oriented material, the album nevertheless delivered an enjoyable heavy metal experience, and with a settled line-up now in place, the Finnish six piece are primed for the fight once more with No More Hollywood Endings.
Both promo singles had hinted at a more reserved direction for this album, and most of the remaining songs follow suit. The band continue to deconstruct their sound, moving from the speed/heavy metal stylings of their early years and further entrenching themselves in the pop metal sound they began seriously pursuing on Bringer of Pain. Whilst the pop influences were always there, they’re now the focal point of the music, sitting front and centre. In essence, Battle Beast are transforming from a heavy metal band with ‘80s pop leanings into an ‘80s pop band with heavy metal leanings.
I suspect this will not be an issue for many fans of the group, as the rousing sing-a-longs and synth elements have always been one of their most popular and defining features. There appears to be an effort to add more detail and texture to the songs, most of which tend to be symphonic touches that provide a dramatic, cinematic flair. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the riffs. Aside from the odd gallop or groovy passage, there is very little riff work of note, with their lack of real presence in the mix a sign of the group’s headspace. Most of the guitar lines are there to provide a bit of clout as the songs slowly build to the inevitable catchy, hook laden chorus. It’s a tried and true approach and when executed well, it goes down a treat. As Battle Beast have shown time and time again, they know how to write a great vocal line, and the likes of “Eden” and “World on Fire” are good examples of this compositional prowess. “Endless Summer” goes a step further and could cause a bit of a stir, proudly basking in a glittering AOR glow. It’s a superb track, performed with sincerity and conviction, and has the sort of mainstream appeal that could see it do well on radio.
Whilst there are some new elements on the album, I do feel that Battle Beast play it safe here. Intentional or not, a lot of the songs come across as inferior rewrites of “Familiar Hell” and “Beyond the Burning Skies” (there’s at least two songs where the main riff is based on the template of the latter). It’s pretty formulaic, with most songs plodding along at the same middling tempo, relying on Noora Louhimo’s vocal power to carry them. It’s too lethargic, and often you’re left waiting in vain for things to move up a gear. I’m not asking for loads of double bass and fast riffs, but just a little more energy and excitement wouldn’t go amiss. I feel like the band play within themselves, and Louhimo, currently one of the best singers in metal, is having to hold back. It’s not until the duo of “Raise Your Fist” and “The Golden Horde” that they really give themselves a kick up the arse and remember that they are allowed to up the ante; the latter in particular a heavy metal scorcher that offers a late album renaissance.
I feel like No More Hollywood Endings is a missed opportunity for Battle Beast. Other than the brazen bore of “Piece of Me”, I can’t outright dismiss any songs, but I feel that they’re capable of more. Bringer of Pain was about landing on their feet after a significant lineup change, but all this album does is consolidate what they’d done on that record. They clearly want to introduce some new caveats to their sound, but they haven’t been adventurous enough with the songs in general; it’s merely gloss on the same old product. It’s decent fun, but it lacks imagination. That’s just about fine for now, but should they continue to show a lack of ambition in the future, I fear they may find the title of this record prophetic.
Highlights: “Eden”, “Endless Summer”, “The Golden Horde”
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