Artist: Beast in Black
Title: Dark Connection
Genre: Power Metal
Release Date: 29th October 2021
Label: Nuclear Blast
I was stoked when the latest BEAST IN BLACK album ‘Dark Connection’ landed on my table for I still remember their fantastic show at Helsinki Icehall back in 2019, but when I had listened through the album for the first time the album failed to ignite and I didn’t know why. It took me a good while to figure out the reasons and I had to listen through their previous releases to find out why this album did not become a blast in my books. I will give you a little spoiler: keyboards, keyboards and more keyboards. If you love keyboards, this album is for you. Why the release was named ‘Dark Connection’ remains a miracle for you will find plenty of 80s good-mood-music unfortunately not as perfectly executed as the INXS releases back in the 80s.
The album starts with ‘Blade Runner’ a strong and powerful song, that reminded me of the songs of ‘From Hell With Love’. ‘Bella Donna’ starts with a nice guitar riff as an opener and I hoped that the song will continue doing so, but the synths soon kick in and somehow now the song reminds me of ABBA songs that joined the “Dark Side of the Force” - so it’s one for the dancefloor and not one for the headbangers, but the chorus invites the crowd to sing along, so it’s quite liveable. It seems ‘Highway To Mars’ was somehow inspired by a PETSHOP BOYS release, though the heavy riffing intro reminds you, that there are some Metal prone shredders in the band.
Drums are opening ‘Hardcore’, that does not push so mercilessly forward than the first three songs and attack the speakers of your sound system a bit less. Unfortunately, the background instrumentation often is too loud and so the vocals are pushed into the background - something that will occur several times on the record. The intro of ‘One Night In Tokyo’ strongly reminded me of some 90s song somehow… it’s a bit like the intro of CULTURE BEAT’s ‘Mr. Vain’ or something from that era. If you love keyboards in an endless loop, you will adore this song. But no worries, it comes with some guitar solo work that is really amazing. If they had only left out all the bridges filled with synth effects and swapped them for guitar work. The mix is not a good one. The synths often overlay the guitars and vocals. A stomping rhythm and an intriguing chorus make it a song for the masses and it will be on the setlist for live shows, for sure.
A voice effect intro with synths coming in is opening ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’ and somehow I felt bored now, all that synth stuff, the identical song structure and all the gaps filled with synths could be exchanged for each other. No real highlights like ‘Ende of the World’ so far and maybe not in sight. ‘Moonlight Rendezvouz’ is a bit slower and the sound is strictly 80s, giving a live crowd the chance to catch some breath. Yannis’ vocals are high pitched once more and it seems that this record was designed to drive him pitching the vocals higher and higher. Once more a stomping rhythm invites the crowd to interact with the band and the chorus passage indicates there will be some interaction during a live performance. The highlight of this song is the guitar solo which is too short for my taste, more guitars please.
Another spoken voice intro opens ‘Revengeance Machine’ - this is my personal highlight, that highspeed double-bass is a great idea and the drum work is one of a kind in total. Finally, some real Metal hidden within all that keyboard effects that dominated the record so far. The guitar solo invites to play air guitar, but it’s not loud enough, the synth background noise eats it away. Again, I’m wishing for more and louder guitars and more bass. Wonderful guitar riffs open for ‘Dark New World’ - it nearly feels like 80s Hair-Metal, the high vocals adding to this effect. The intense and heavy guitar riffing is just perfect for those about to rock. The guitar solo is one of its kind, though it should have been louder, the rhythm guitar is quite dominating. If they had only left the keyboard noise out of this song, it would have been perfect.
Guitar riffs open ‘To The Last Drop Of Blood’ until keyboards and vocals take over. Yannis’ clear singing is fantastic, effortlessly changing between high and low, leading vocals and choir. The first part of the song is a light one, the 80s synths dominating the song until some breath-taking shredding reminds you that BEAST IN BLACK know their Metal. ‘Broken Survivors’ starts in the typical spheric BEAST IN BLACK manner and would have perfectly fitted on ‘From Hell With Love’; on this record it’s rather outstanding, because vocal work and guitar riffing remind you of the very good previous releases. A song where Yannis finally has not only to perform high shrieking vocals, but can make use of his wonderful falsetto. The guitar solo parts and the lead riffs are fantastic and give the song a wonderful 80s Rock attitude. More songs like this one please.
The last song on this album written by BEAST IN BLACK is ‘My Dystopia’, seems to be a ballade. Somehow this song is dripping of kitsch, piano chords, emotional clear singing but it fails to evoke any romantic feelings, maybe because it suddenly breaks into a short Metal intermezzo, then back to clear instrumentation and singing until guitars kick in and take it back into a Metal sequence again, then there are parts that are nearly Symphonic all in all it’s a wild mix of tempo and styles. Compared to ‘Oceandeep’ this song is a really weak effort that would close the album, if there weren’t two bonus tracks.
Battle Hymn’ is a MANOWAR cover and it’s not a surprise since some of the band members like MANOWAR a lot. You can love or hate MANOWAR, but somehow BEAST IN BLACK managed to exceed the already extremely testosterone prone, legend dropping, muscle man Metal (don’t get me wrong, I like the show MANOWAR are putting on during their live concerts). The guitars are tuned so Pop-prone compared to MANOWAR’s thundering instruments, the synths brightly tuned and reflecting the melody in a positive and encouraging manner and singer Yannis Papadopoulos shrieking highly and failing to hit any note that the whole thing sounds ridiculous compared to Eric Adams’ extremely intense and perfection prone voice and the thundering perfectly tuned instruments of the original version. The bridge part with the keyboards and Yannis’ clean singing sounds nearly like part of a Disney song until the guitars kick in again. The guitar solos are perfect, but lack loudness and intensity, somehow synths and drums are so droning that the guitars get nearly lost. If you don’t take yourself seriously it’s quite bold to turn a legendary Metal song into such a thing. I pretty much doubt that MANOWAR will love the song.
‘They Don’t Care About Us’ is a MICHAEL JACKSON cover and a “nice to have” but nothing special. The guitar work is perfect, but the vocals sound hallows and shrieking compared to MICHAEL JACKSON’s vocals. Compared to other covers of this song, like SALIVA’s, this is really a weak cover version - it sounds like a try of a party cover band. BEAST IN BLACK has everything they need for a very good cover - excellent guitar players, a fantastic drummer and a talented singer with a wide range of vocals - but somehow the focus was on Pop and synths and not on the band members’ talents. It’s also confusing to hear a song about the brutal reality on this planet as the closing song of an album that offers pure escapism into the world of Manga, Anime and Cyberpunk (even MANOWAR’s songs take you into a world that somehow offers to escape from reality)… to choose a cover that is far from reaching the quality of the original song as the closing song of an album, is not a clever idea.
The band had plenty of time to work on this album but they failed to ban their live qualities onto an album which is more 80s and 90s Pop music prone than its predecessors and totally lacks any rough- and edginess real Metal comes with. The keyboard-overdose mastermind Anton Kabanen forced into the otherwise fantastic songs and the lyrics that dive deeper and deeper into the Anime and Manga world with every release make it “only” a good album, but not the band’s best release so far. It remains a miracle why you have to use so much “canned” music if you have fantastic shredders and a very passionate and skilled drummer in the line-up. The band’s growing fanbase will love the album anyway. Let’s hope that the live versions of the new songs will leave some space for them to show their skills.
01. Blade Runner
02. Bella Donna
03. Highway To Mars
05. One Night In Tokyo
06. Moonlight Rendezvous
07. Revengeance Machine
08. Dark New World
09. To The Last Drop Of Blood
10. Broken Survivors
11. My Dystopia
12. Battle Hymn (MANOWAR-Cover)
13. They Don’t Care About Us (MICHAEL-JACKSON-Cover)
Yannis Papadopoulos – Vocals
Anton Kabanen – Guitars
Kasperi Heikkinen – Guitars
Mate Molnar – Bass
Atte Palokangas – Drums
www.beastinblack.com / www.facebook.com/beastinblackofficial
Total: 7.5 / 10