Germany has such a plethora of heavy metal pantheons, that it can be difficult for many acts to make any head way. This is the case for bands such as Brainstorm, whose respectable catalogue is regrettably overlooked in favour of the more recognised groups. Their almost 30 year career has still been a success, with the latest chapter manifesting itself in the form of Midnight Ghost.
Being of Teutonic origin, the band’s sound is a little harsher than your standard Euro power metal group, with a demeanour sitting a little closer to that of your average US group. Riffs are solid and muscular, as is the rhythm section, with an inherent melodicism shining through at all the right times. The production is quite something, with a mix that is clean without sounding too polished, giving the guitar work an extra sonic punch. Andy Franck’s vocals are very much a derivation of the great Rob Halford, although they largely sit in the mid-range, with little of the higher notes that dominate many acts of the style. Franck relies more on expression and cadence than range, imposing himself on the listener with power and presence. He is every part the equal of the instrumental side of the musical framework, and together they make quite a potent force.
Despite there being some good riffs, solos and vocal lines here and there, there’s rarely anything mind blowing that leaves you desperate to hit replay. Conversely, there’s nary a descent into the dregs, with Brainstorm seemingly existing in some sort of purgatory between the two. Where they can excel is whipping half decent ideas into something far greater than the sum of their parts. Take “Four Blessings” for example. There’s nothing particularly impressive about the introduction, but the throbbing bass, thunderous beat and the tight crunch of the riff together make for something quite irresistible. Strangely, the playing might be a little too tight and workmanlike at times, making it a little less exciting, but that will be a matter of taste for the listener, as the professionalism and skill with which the band play cannot be faulted.
The album starts well enough, but it’s not until the fourth track that it really comes alive. The melodic sensibilities of “The Pyre” blend well with its swift heavy metal backbone, whilst the crunching riff and driving beat of “Divine Inner Ghost” reach a suitable crescendo with the catchy chorus hook. The soft verses of “When Pain Become Real” soon rev up nicely for the energetic refrain, whereas the almost eight minute “Jeanne Boulet (1764)” goes all in on majestic splendour and comes up trumps. We never quite reach those heights again, but “The Path” does have a sense of finality about it, ending things on a relative high.
Midnight Ghost is another fair record in Brainstorm’s canon that again proves they are a dependable act when it comes to consistency. It’s an album that can appeal to multiple demographics, as it’s melodic enough and punchy enough to satisfy fans of either persuasion. Don’t expect to be wowed, but do expect an enjoyable ride if you decide to give it your time. You could certainly do far, far worse.
Highlights: “The Pyre”, “Jeanne Boulet (1764)”, “Divine Inner Ghost”
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