Brainstorm – Downburst (2008)

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008, Metal Blade)

  1. Falling Spiral Down
  2. Fire Walk With Me
  3. Stained With Sin
  4. Redemption In Your Eyes
  5. End In Sorrow
  6. How Do You Feel
  7. Protect Me From Myself
  8. Surrounding Walls
  9. Frozen
  10. All Alone

Band Lineup:
Andy B. Franck – Vocals
Torsten Ihlenfeld – Guitars & Bass
Milan Loncaric – Guitars & Bass
Dieter Bernert – Drums
Antonio Iewa – live & “future” Bass

Additional Musicians:
Miro – Keyboards

Produced by: Sascha Paeth, Miro, & Brainstorm

Total Time = 43:21

Brainstorm official website
Brainstorm MySpace page
Metal Blade Records

Power Metal bands were making a big comeback in the late ’90s/early 2000s riding the waves that Hammerfall and Iced Earth had made with near perfect albums. Brainstorm was on the scene since the mid-’90s but I ignored them until I plucked their third record, AMBIGUITY, from a used bin shortly after it’s release in 2000. Since AMBIGUITY, this German outfit has released three more top quality Traditional Metal albums in METUS MORTIS (2001), SOUL TEMPTATION (2003) and the band’s crowning achievement LIQUID MONSTER (2005). With such a solid string of albums, Brainstorm has become one of my favorite Power Metal bands of the last 10 to 12 years and I was really looking forward to the January 2008 release of DOWNBURST.

I picked up DOWNBURST on it’s release date (Jan 22) and I listened to it regularly for weeks but then, for some strange reason, the CD went into the growing pile on my desk and I never relistened to it. I think my shelving the album had a lot to do with my ears being saturated with Power Metal and the consistent new releases by many different bands in the following weeks of early 2008. Taking a fresh listen to the album now I realize that my initial instincts on DOWNBURST were correct: this is a really great record! Brainstorm doesn’t break new Heavy Metal ground, it can be argued that Traditional Metal all sounds the same, but the band does play to their strengths of great musicianship, with a sense of melody mixed with power, and excellent production. Andy B. Franck’s vocal style reminds me of lower register Rob Halford on many songs but he also has his own aggressive style. The guitar duo of Ihlenfeld and Loncaric compliment each other with solid leads and pounding rhythms while Dieter Bernert hits the drums with ferocious intensity. The bass duties fall to both guitar players as the band parted ways with Andreas Milander (replaced after this recording by Antonio Iewa) and the keyboards are added by producer Miro. The overall sound is tight and very melodic with solid guitars and keyboards that enhance the sound instead of drowning it out.

Opening track ‘Falling Spiral Down’ showcases the power of Brainstorm with driving guitars and Franck’s intense delivery and background vocals that give the song a big sound. ‘Fire Walk With Me’ is very melodic with a catchy chorus and ambient keyboards, I hate to say that this is mainstream but I could hear this being played on current Rock stations. It’s a very ’80s Metal sound song in the same area as BALLS TO THE WALL-era Accept and early ’80s Judas Priest. Same thing goes for ‘Stained With Sin’, it’s another good track that has a melodic ’80s Metal style with modern touches. Actually, I would put both songs in the same style as the material on Primal Fear’s last album NEW RELIGION.

Brainstorm moves into more speed and power with ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’. This song is more straight forward in it’s delivery until the chorus where you can hear the subtle keyboard flourishes and melody vocals, it also has one of the best solo breaks on the record. We go from fast to slow with ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’, a moody mid-tempo number that briefly reminds me of Tiamat at the beginning but sounds more like current Primal Fear as the song continues. It’s still riff oriented but the keyboards are more prominent to set a sad and desperate mood. I like ‘Eyes Of Sorrow’ because it’s definitely different from the true Power Metal formula, slows down amd creates a defined tone. ‘How Do You Feel’ picks up the tempo again but has that mainstream sound like ‘Fire Walk With Me’ that makes both songs way too similar. It’s a good song with the same solid elements but it sounds like it’s all benn done before.

Speed dominates ‘Protect Me From Myself’ to the point that the band reminds us that they is power in Power Metal. The riffs are fast but it’s Bernert’s drumming that really drives the song and delivers the punch. Keyboards seem to dominate ‘Surrounding Walls’ but there are guitars here. I’d say the song has more of an epic feel to it with the keyboards and the melodic style kind of like the last few Kamelot albums. Same goes for ‘Frozen’ although the guitars have more tenacity to them and the song overall is faster with the drums really taking charge. I like Franck’s vocals a lot here because he shows off his wide range from low to high, melodic to gruff. The album closer is ‘All Alone’ and it sounds similar to ‘Falling Spiral Down’ in that it starts out hard and heavy and weaves in the epic elements that develop over the course of the entire record. It’s a solid bookend to close out DOWNBURST.

Bottom Line:
My initial thoughts on this album were true: DOWNBURST is another successful Metal album from one of the most underrated bands on the scene today. When I started listening in January I was really into this album but I shelved it for months… loss. A fresh set of spins shows a band building on the success by evolving their sound and becoming more dynamic. Everything is in perfect form from the vocals and music to the songwriting and production. My only complaint is that it feels like the overall sound is a little behind the times, maybe by a year or so. Not to continue to compare but Primal Fear and Kamelot are leaders of this epic style of Power Metal and it seems like Brainstorm is coming in a little late with an album that sounds similar to these two bands’ last recordings. That doesn’t mean that DOWNBURST loses points, it’s still a great record.

Favorite Songs: ‘Falling Spiral Down’, ‘Stained With Sin’, ‘End In Sorrow’, ‘Redemption In Your Eyes’, ‘Frozen’