Lions! Elephants! Creepy clowns! The circus is back in town, led by Battle Beast. Come one, come all!
When Finland’s Battle Beast kicked out founding member, guitarist and lead songwriter Anton Kabanen back in 2015 I feared that would basically be the end for the Berserk-inspired power metal band I loved. Kabanen took his Berserk influences with him and started Beast in Black and Battle Beast churned out the disappointing Bringer of Pain in 2017. Known as a metal band with a powerhouse vocalist able to belt a hole into a brick wall, here we were treated to a much softer and more mainstream sound. I liked Bringer of Pain alright, but for me can’t hold a candle to the band’s older material. Successor No More Hollywood Endings was released in 2019 and the less said about that one the better. A lacklustre collection of okay songs and sappy ballads with the focus firmly on vocals and keyboards instead of heavy metal, it failed to impress at all beyond the excellent The Golden Horde.
Imagine my surprise then to find out that the brand new Circus of Doom is actually good! The first two singles (Master of Illusion and Eye of the Storm) were more than promising. Somehow, Louhimo sounded badass again, alternating between syrupy vocals and fiery raspy shrieks and the music was suddenly fun again. This was the Battle Beast I used to love. Catchy, fun and heavy with just the right amount of cheese. Bite-sized, bombastic metal for the fans of bands like Powerwolf, Sabaton and, well, of course Beast in Black. I’m pleased to say that the remaining eight songs on Circus of Doom are equally good, and that this might be the best thing they’ve done since at least Unholy Savior.
Coming out of the gates strongly is the bombastic opening track. Heavy on keyboards, this mid-tempo rocker chugs along for almost five minutes and sets the tone for what will be a mostly mid-tempo album. It’s dark, it’s a bit on the pompous side and of course, has almost Danny Elfman-like “dark circus” melodies sprinkled throughout. Those elements will return later in the weird middle part of Russian Roulette, but otherwise it’s mostly straight-forward heavy metal we’re getting here for little over the course of a sleek forty-one minutes. Things get a bit cheesy here and there, with the keys on Freedom and the bells and main chorus of The Road to Avalon being the biggest offenders, but never do things get overly annoying or plain bad. Highlights are the aforementioned pre-release tracks, the impressively meaty Armageddon and the incredibly fun, speedy closing track Place That We Call Home.
At the end of Circus of Doom I was left nothing short of impressed. Somehow Battle Beast has regained its fangs, resulting in a return to a more aggressively metal sound to balance out the pop sentimentalities. Most of all, I’m glad that the band hasn’t further devolved into nothing more than a showcase for Louhimo’s vocal capabilities. She’s impressive here as always, but her vocals on Circus of Doom are always in service of the songs and not the other way around. She can go from sweet and soft to wailing like a banshee in the blink of an eye, and I’m really happy that she’s found the balance between the two again. Circus of Doom is a definite return to form, and although most die hard metalheads will still find it too soft and too poppy, it’s good to have the band back doing what they do best.
Label: Nuclear Blast, 2022
Buy it here: https://battlebeast.fi
- Circus of Doom (04:57)
- Wings of Light (04:07)
- Master of Illusion (04:08)
- Where Angels Fear to Fly (03:56)
- Eye of the Storm (04:26)
- Russian Roulette (04:16)
- Freedom (03:44)
- The Road to Avalon (04:30)
- Armageddon (03:43)
- Place That We Call Home (03:47)
- Noora Louhimo – vocals
- Juuso Soinio – guitars
- Joona Björkroth – guitars
- Eero Sipilä – bass
- Janne Björkroth – keyboards
- Pyry Vikki – drums
Review by Ralph Plug