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Metal Blade (2008)
Rating: 6.5/10

Brainstorm was founded in 1989 by guitarists Torsten Ihlenfeld and Milan Loncaric and drummer Dieter Bernert. As evidence of their faithfulness to playing metal I offer you the fact that the German band was not signed until 1997. Few bands would forge on for eight years without the support of a label.

Their hard work paid off though as the band released two full-length albums, Hungry (1997) and Unholy (1998), before signing to renowned label Metal Blade Records just before the new millennium dawned. The band’s Metal Blade releases have been fronted by vocalist Andy B. Franck, and it’s these releases that have gained Brainstorm international success and enabled them to bring their live show to the world through relentless touring.

Downburst is the band’s first release in over two years and follows the critically praised Liquid Monster (2005). The album’s lead single, ‘Fire Walk With Me’, is already making waves, topping the Hungarian charts in its first week of release. I have to admit that, while this album is not without its annoyances, it’s both very cool and very surprising to see a band finally hitting their stride after two decades in the business of metal.

If you enjoyed the power metal perfection of Liquid Monster then you’ll unquestionably enjoy Downburst even more. This album sounds a lot like Liquid Monster experiencing ’roid rage. Everything is bigger, more intense, and decidedly more aggressive than any of the band’s previous releases. The melodic element that the band is known for is still here, it’s just not as “friendly” as it has been in the past (as the cover art hints at).

Brainstorm delivers a triad of great songs to kick the new album off. ‘Falling Spiral Down’ scratches and claws its way at your psyche until it has you, and then permanently imprints itself in your brain. ‘Fire Walk With Me’ and ‘Stained With Sin’ are up next and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Brainstorm can write great songs. Both are bombastic, melodic power metal at its finest. They will make you want to sing along but also bang your head and pump your fist like the metal kids did years ago.

About halfway through this album is where it starts to drag. As much as I love how Downburst opens, the band fails to expand the sound. Unfortunately, this results in a series of run of the mill tracks that you wouldn’t necessarily turn off but would probably skip on repeated listens if the CD player controls were within reach. Only the Helloween-like ‘Protect Me From Myself’ keeps the midsection from being lost until the heavier ‘Frozen’ and the arena anthem ‘All Alone’ pick the album up and conclude it.

Overall, this is Brainstorm’s finest work to date. I can’t help but wonder if the band has one better in them though. Downburst basically perfects what the band did on Liquid Monster but does little to take it in new directions. Purists will find this quite to their liking but those who hear the amazing potential this band still has will simply enjoy, all the while hoping that the next album will come sooner rather than later.

Mark Fisher

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