Man, oh man. This is a toughie. On one hand I really want to like this debut album Berserker (out now, Nuclear Blast Records) from BEAST IN BLACK. On the other hand, many of the songs are simply carbon copies of what guitarist Anton Kabanen was doing in his old band BATTLE BEAST. Now, I get why this would be, since he was the principal songwriter in that group. But come on, from the band name, logo, and cover art you’d think he was still there, or at least trying to be. Look, I’m not gonna spend a few hundred words totally slagging this band off, but I will be honest, and we both know you expect nothing less from me. So here we go.
First off, vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos does an excellent job on these songs, so kudos to him. Kabanen also recruited fellow six-stringer Kasperi Heikkinen (ex-U.D.O.), bassist Máté Molnar and drummer Sami Hänninen for this adventure. The band is very tight and they have a nice overall aesthetic, which is fine. All too often though, the keyboards are too much and take away from, rather than enhance the tunes. A perfect example is “Born Again.” Not only is the cheese everywhere but the keys are overpowering. The fact that this sounds EXACTLY like a BATTLE BEAST throwaway doesn’t help matters, either.
Another cringe-worthy moment comes in the form of “Crazy, Mad, Insane.” It’s like, “OK, we get it. You can play keyboards. Now tone it down fer fuck’s sake, willya??” I also wasn’t particularly sold on “Eternal Fire.” Not only has this title been used a zillion times, but man alive, it’s dripping with Velveeta. You’ve also got what could be a pretty good rocking song in “Go to Hell” that is absolutely ruined by those fucking keys. Look, I’m not against them when used in moderation, but they are mainly a distraction on this record. Oh, and don’t even get me started on “End of the World’ which again sounds eerily like Kabanen’s previous group.
With all that said, there were a few I did like. Opener “Beast In Black” starts out promising and actually delivers on said promise, while “Zodd the Immortal” has more balls, fury, and punch than the rest of the tracks combined. And as cliche as its title may be, “Blood of a Lion” still serves as a fist-pumping anthem for the European festival crowds. Another one I really enjoyed was “The Fifth Angel.” When this band wants to turn it on, they truly sound great, like with “Hell For All Eternity.” Here the keys serve as a nice intro and add to the flavor of the dish, instead of ruining it with too many condiments. Plus the guitar solo is off the charts!
People always say, “Write what you know.” And they’re 100% right. I just think Anton Kabanen took that too much to heart and wrote what is essentially a by the numbers, though less exciting BATTLE BEAST album. And as much as his old unit can be cheesy at times, they still manage to keep it fresh and exciting. BEAST IN BLACK very much has a heard-it-all-before feel; there’s nothing new or innovative going on here, just a retread. And while Berserker isn’t terrible, this record is definitely one that I can’t see myself listening to again because the keyboards are too distracting and in-your-face. If they knock that shit off they’ll probably be really good.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Zodd the Immortal”, “Hell For All Eternity”, “The Fifth Angel”