Brainstorm – Memorial Roots (2010, AFM Records)
- Forsake What I Believe
- The Conjunction Of 7 Planets
- Cross The Line
- Nailed Down Dreams
- Blood Still Stains
- The Final Stages Of Decay
- When No One Cares
- Would You
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Milan Loncaric – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Antonio Ieva – Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums
Producers: Sascha Paeth & Miro
Total Time = 54:44
For the last 10 years, Brainstorm have been one of my favorite Power Metal bands and I have bought every album that vocalist extraordinaire, Andy B. Franck, has sung on (I am missing the first two records!). 2006’s LIQUID MONSTER was an awesome album and DOWNBURST (2008) continued the band’s tradition of solid albums but with an expansion of the overall sound to a more progressive and melodic direction. DOWNBURST turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2008, despite my shelving it for months after it’s release, so I was looking forward to this new record’s North American release in January. I was lucky enough to get an advance download of MEMORIAL ROOTS from AFM Records back in December 2009 so I have been giving this a lot of time on the computer and iPod but, true to my collecting form, I was able to pick this CD up towards the end of January.
I’ve kept MEMORIAL ROOTS in my weekly playlist because some days I think it’s a brilliant album and some days I think it’s too much of a diversion away from the band’s earlier straightforward Power Metal sound. I was thrown off initially by the Progressive and melodic tones of the opening ‘Forsake What I Believe’, a definite epic track with an orchestrated intro. The opening guitar kicks in and you think it’s going to be one of those powerful speed tracks Brainstorm is known for but the song goes for a more subdued nature with Franck showing his range by utilizing his lower register well. ‘Forsake’ is a very melodic track, very dark and ambient in spots, giving the listener the immeadiate impression that MEMORIAL ROOTS is going to be a comlex album. That straightforward, in your face power is saved for ‘Shiver’, a song that sounds like a more commercial Brainstorm, maybe flirting with ’80s Judas Priest? Thick riffs and solid vocals make this song great but I get a very dated feel from it, it’s still a solid track. Another Progressive Metal epic arrives with the opening tones of ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ (sounds like a title from an Avantasia or Ayreon record!), one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s similar to ‘Forsake What I Believe’ as far as pace and mood but the overall sound is bombastic and layered. There are so many sounds, tempos and details put into this song that it has to be the most technical yet one of the most melodic. I find myself singing along to ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’ easily and scorching my air guitar, this is the masterpiece of the album.
‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘Victim’ put the speed back into the Brainstorm sound but the melodic direction is also put on display by the commercial Hard Rock sound of ‘Nailed Down Dreams’. You come to expect powerful riffs from a band with Brainstorm’s history but you don’t expect to hear something so melodic and mainstream. ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ has the word “single” written all over it, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some of the more opemnRock radio stations in the U.S. embrace it, it’s a very American sounding song. ‘Blood Still Stains’ chugs right along and Andy Franck switches from the smooth melodic tone on ‘Nailed Down Dreams’ to a more aggressive, yet controlled, vocal. Halfway through this album, I sit and wonder why Andy B. Franck isn’t always in the discussion when it comes to the top Metal vocalists, he absolutely puts on an impressive display on every song and his voice adapts to so many different styles and ranges. Obviously, Franck defines the Brainstorm sound.
‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ starts out with a basic traditional Metal riff but the song quickly follows the same progressive and melodic plan as ‘Forsake What I Believe’ and ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’. This song is definitely another epic and complex song with different tempos and sounds but I feel like I’ve already heard it before. I’m not saying that ‘The Final Stages Of Decay’ is a bad song, it’s a good song but just a little too much like the other two epics. ‘When No One Cares’ is another song that I’m just not really into, it’s more simple and there really isn’t much going on here, I think the chorus is especially weak. The final song, ‘Would You’, puts everything right again and ends MEMORIAL ROOTS with a song that combines the best of the Progressive elements and the speed and heavy power that compete on the album. I don’t want to go as far as comparing this song to something from Iron Maiden’s catalog but you can definitely hear some direct influences.
Despite being thrown off by the opening song’s Progressive sound, I decided to keep listening and the conclusion, after hours of listening, is that MEMORIAL ROOTS is definitely another triumph for Brainstorm. Power Metal can be a restrictive genre at times and the great bands find a way to explore and expand on their Power Metal roots. Brainstorm has followed the path that Primal Fear and Kamelot have blazed with epic Power Metal and the band is wisely writing longer, diverse songs that stretch their musicianship. There is a good balance of power and melody making MEMORIAL ROOTS a solid headbang and a catchy sing-a-long. There are a couple of fillers here, some of the songs sound too much like the others, but that is a small complaint because those songs are still done very well…..they just sound too formulaic. Comparing this to their last album, I find that I like MEMORIAL ROOTS better than DOWNBURST…..maybe because I’ve spent more time listening to it? I like the expanded direction and the exploration of new sounds, this puts Brainstorm right at the top of the Power Metal heap, MEMORIAL ROOTS is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year.
‘Forsake What I Believe’, ‘The Conjunction Of 7 Planets’, ‘Cross The Line’, ‘Ahimsa’, ‘Nailed Down Dreams’