I struggle to think of many bands that, like Brainstorm from Germany, have been consistently delivering an influx of high-quality metal albums for the last 25 years or so. And a ton of them for that matter, as “Wall of Skulls” is the band’s 13th original full-length album. Brainstorm plays a heavier type of Power Metal, a hard-hitting formula that includes some of the most aggressive and the most catchy elements of the Power Metal subgenre. I have been following them for at least 16 years now, and I can easily say that they are one of the most underrated metal bands out there. The quality of their music has remained consistently high release after release, and yet I cannot explain how come they aren’t bigger than they are.
“Wall of Skulls” is their new effort, and another example of my claims: great Power Metal with all the right elements that make Brainstorm’s music never too cheesy but always catchy while retaining some level of aggression. The album opens with “Chamber Thirteen”, a gloomy intro with Gregorian chants and an epic 2nd half to help set the atmosphere. One of the few intros I am more than happy not to skip. The first full song of the album is “Where Ravens Fly”, starting with a brutal and very straightforward Power Metal riff. You can tell Andy B. Franck’s vocals are amazing as usual in this album. A perfect Power Metal song with great hooks, catchy melodies, and the right amount of background keyboards. “Solitude” comes next with a vocal intro giving way to a punching riff and mid-tempo rhythm. A slower song than the previous that has an amazing syncopated chorus that truly stands out. This song was made to be sung in front of a live audience. “Escape the Silence” is next, and if I’m not mistaken, this was the first single from the album. A fast song with a thrashy riff and yet another infectious chorus. This is when you realize that Brainstorm is not an average band and is able to deliver many killer songs in a row without dropping quality. This song has collaboration from one of my favorite metal singers (Peavy Wagner from Rage) but I feel that his contribution to the song falls a bit short though. “Turn off the light” is a classic Heavy Metal influenced track with strong Priest feels to it. A very 80’s song with a melodic twist that keeps it fresh. Very good song but a bit less memorable than the amazing first 4 tracks. “Glory Disappears” comes next, a melodramatic Power ballad that showcases Andy’s impressive range and vocal control. This is the cheesiest of the songs here but still a decent one, I do feel that the chorus is a bit overused though.
I am happy to report that the 2nd half of the album is a banger as well. “My Dystopia” brings back the fast riffs and the rock-solid double kicks for a near-perfect Power Metal song. Shredding leads and a very earwormy chorus complete the accolades for this one. One of my favorite songs on the album. “End of Innocence” is next with its very Hard Rock intro and overall style. It is another mid-tempo track with very enjoyable moments that manage to bring the intensity of the previous track down to a more Arena Rock level. In this roller coaster of songs “Stigmatized (Shadows Fall)” comes next and with it another kick-ass Power Metal banger with amazing drumming, tight riffing, and fantastic hooks. The main riff and the bridge section in particular are very memorable. “Holding On” is next with its proggy 80’s feel. This one is a slower one but what an anthemic song it is! The melodies are perfectly chosen here and the chorus won’t leave your brain in a while. “I, The Deceiver” is another Heavy Metal influenced song with a very punchy riff and a great rhythm section. It is a middle-of-the-road track for the overall quality of this album, but an excellent one by any other standards. “Wall of Skulls” finishes with “Cold Embrace”, a galloping and powerful song with a slight Hammerfall feel to it. A more than appropriate closer for this top-notch release.
Production-wise this album is as tight as they get in the Heavy Metal genre. Everything is in the right place and at the right level and no sound is ever too overwhelming. Andy B. Franck’s vocals don’t seem to age at all and are as amazing as usual. I admire the way the band has managed to find the perfect balance in layering the vocals to create grandiose choruses without over-promising or sounding like a barrage of a thousand voices. Brainstorm is living proof that Power Metal today doesn’t need gimmicks or costumes to produce amazing quality music, which makes it such a shame how bands like this one are often overlooked in favor of more commercially profitable ones. Brainstorm is easily one of the best Metal bands (all subgenres included) active today, and I am happy to see they are in great shape. This album is a must for every Metal fan.
Album highlights: Where Ravens Fly, Escape the Silence, My Dystopia, Stigmatized
For fans of: Hammerfall, Iced Earth, Steel Attack, Primal Fear
Release Year: 2021
Label: AFM Records
Reviewed by Roman Ibarra