"Wall of Skulls" (AFM Records; 2021)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This is another one of those embarrassing confessions. We haven't reviewed a Brainstorm album here since 2008's "Downburst," and I, personally, haven't reviewed Brainstorm since 2001's "Metus Mortus." Now, I've listened to Brainstorm in those many years. Enjoyed what I heard. So, when "Wall of Skulls" was released, I promised myself I'd listen and review it. So here we are.

Brainstorm is a power metal band. Recently, I reviewed another power metal band (who shall remain nameless). In my review of that other power metal band, I talked about how the music seemed so full of clichés, and that nothing sounded fresh. And that part was true. But what I didn't realize until I listened to Brainstorm's "Wall of Skulls" is this: The difference between Brainstorm and that other band is that Brainstorm is just better at everything. From the songwriting to the musicianship to the production to the vocals, Brainstorm does everything better than the other band.

Now, that may come with experience. Brainstorm has been around a long time. They've had a lot of time to fine-tune their sound, to make it theirs, to hone their musicianship. "Wall of Skulls" proves that. Not only is the music bigger, sharper and heavier, each song feels like it's telling a story, and each of those stories comes together to create the whole.

Every track is tight and clean, powerful and strong. Most are locomotive hard rockers. My favorites were "Escape the Silence," "Turn of the Light," "My Dystopia" and the closer "I, The Deceiver." Those are all pretty hard rockers. In fact, the only exception is "Glory Disappears," which slows things down just a bit but whose big chorus balances things out.

Bottom line, if you're a fan of Brainstorm or power metal in general, then you'll find a lot to like on "Wall of Skulls."

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"Downburst" (Metal Blade; 2008)

Reviewed by Metal Mark

I actually never heard of Germany’s Brainstorm until recently yet they have been in existence for almost two decades. That’s a shame because they obviously have a great deal to offer. 

"Downburst" is a fairly potent blending of power metal, classic style heavy metal and thrash (to a lesser extent). They hammer at their songs with no hesitation and attack most of them with a flurry of riffs. The vocals are extremely solid with a huge range and a great deal of consistency. 

Brainstorm does a good job of balancing between melodic and heavy. One of my biggest problems with power metal is that some bands get so caught up in the flourish and pageantry that they forget that it’s a metal album. Brainstorm never for one second let you forget that they are a metal band. 

On "Downburst," Brainstorm may not be doing a whole lot that's new, but they are certainly proficient at what they do. A few songs tend to get a little too repetitive and I found my attention drifting here and there. Still, largely it’s a good album that I will be playing for a while.

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"Liquid Monster" (Metal Blade; 2005)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

German power metal troupe Brainstorm barrel down the gates on the quintet's 11-track "Liquid Monster." Fusing triumphant choruses with exhilarating guitar runs and interlocking rhythms, tracks like "Mask of Life" and "Lifeline" will summon up the metal from deep inside your soul. 

Falling somewhere in between vintage Queensryche, Helloween, and Iced Earth, Brainstorm's searing hooks are both heavy and catchy, while the band's overall flurry of metal may be overwhelming to the casual fan, but will undoubtedly please those that revel in Priest, Maiden, Dio, and the like. 

If you yearn for the days when falsetto metal voices were king and the riffs came fast and furious, Brainstorm has the remedy you crave. 

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"Metus Mortis" (Metal Blade; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Brainstorm is true metal in the ... well, in the truest sense.

Guitars that know when to scream and when to chunk it up, powerful vocals that seem to come from the soul, epic songwriting and sweeping lead guitar riffs. Brainstorm delivers 100% pure testosterone rock'n'roll.

The word that comes most quickly to mind when listening to "Metus Mortis" is BIG. The band has an absolutely huge sound. Like other true and power metal bands, Brainstorm fills every millimeter of your speaker cabinet with pure, unadulterated metal. Although the CD opens with a very "Terminator"-like cinematic sound, it isn't long before pounding drums lead into fiery guitars and that BIG sound begins.

And it doesn't let up from there. "Metus Mortis" (does that mean "Dead Meat" in Latin?) begins with an epic tune and ends with an epic tune. Throughout the CD, hints of Iron Maiden, Manowar and Ronnie James Dio come to light, but never overshadow Brainstorm's unique sound. (Except maybe for track 10, "Behind," which sounds a whole hell of a lot like Megadeth).

Despite the band's obvious music talents, songwriting seems to be the real key to Brainstorm's success. The band blends melodic verses and choruses with heavy guitar, double-bass drums and bass fretwork that must have left somebody's fingertips bleeding. The combination is powerful indeed. Again, the word "big" comes to mind.

Brainstorm deserves to be recognized for their expertise at delivering the goods. "Metus Mortis" is a kickass record that stands above many others already out there.

Brainstorm: Andy B. Franck - lead and back-up vocals; Torsten Ihlenfeld - guitars and back-up vocals; Milan Loncaric - guitars and back-up vocals; Andreas Mailander - bass; Dieter Bernert - drums.

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"Ambiguity" (Metal Blade; 2000)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Ambiguity" is full of epic power metal. Huge guitars, throbbing drums, soaring vocals and giant choruses. Songs that are woven together with sophistication and complication. 

Strangely, because everything is so "big" on "Ambiguity," sometimes the album tends to get a little dull. The songwriting isn't as diverse as it was on later releases and, though "Ambiguity" is certainly entertaining enough, you likely won't go back to it as often as you might "Metus Mortis."

Still, if you're looking for heavy metal's version of opera, Brainstorm is one of the bands who does it best. "Ambiguity" may not be the band's best release, but it's still damn good. It will fill the speakers of your home stereo with walls of pure heavy metal ... and that's never a bad thing.

Brainstorm: Andy B. Franck - vocals; Torsten Ihlenfeld - guitars, keyboards; Milan Loncaric - guitars; Andreas Mailander - bass; Dieter Bernert - drums. 

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2021 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.