I never quite knew that the space cowboys of Gloryhammer already got bested before they even existed. And by a Heavy Metal band to boot, not from the folks of the Power Metal realm.
In other words, I stumbled across a band that indulges in a screamy, old and often somewhat stubbornly conformist style. A genre that seems to be on a downward slide since NWoBHM left the stage. It’s gone, they said. Never to come back, they said.
Yet, Battle Beast‘s Steel really proves them all wrong, and tramples right over everything it encounters. And this with an ’80s Heavy Metal style that is so cliché, it really should have sent the record straight to the waste bin.
But it didn’t.
I opined in the past that Dream Evil invented the ultimate metal scream that Ms. Hayes of Unleash the Archers is so fond of. And maybe so. But here Nitte Valo – on her sole and unique mission for Battle Beast – drums up some stiff competition. In a way that old-style contributions of Iron Maiden and their ilk grow stale all of a sudden.
In truth, were it not for the truly Heavy Metal chugging and the trademark screams, Steel would (or should) pass as Power Metal. To boot, it comes complete with a typical fantasy background. Which – again – is nothing new for those outfits in the ’80s, when NWoBHM was all the rage.
And what famous and atrociously catchy beginnings of a band that would descend into some sort of a pop-infused Symphonic Metal nightmare later. Just check their 2019 offering No More Hollywood Endings.
Yet, Steel features that bold swagger of a band very sure of and in itself.
And to find this in a debut is quite amazing. Straight off the bat with Enter The Metal World, they pave that pathway to steely metal right down heavy road. Complete with a solo that really rocked me back on my haunches. Justice and Metal reminds me of early Krokus with some Manowar mixed in – complete with motherfucking swearwords.
And on it goes, every track on Steel exudes a slightly different texture of the Heavy Metal universe. And at times, you’ll get a glimpse of that terrible glam trap that peeks around a corner or two. Which again goes with the territory in a certain sense, like it or not.
So, it was not only dumb chugging after all in the Heavy Metal movement, as my friends liked to state with some venom back in the day.
Battle Beast are not shy to copiously ladle out that cheese in all its ’80s splendor neither. They drive that specific cliché like a fucking cheddar Lamborghini high on kerosene. So much so that the lyrics are spiked with the words metal, steel and iron over and over again. All of that built on typically simple song structures that are often saved only by the vocalist’s amazingly elastic voice cords.
And that truly was the main surprise. She boasts these stellar pipes that the lead of Cwn Annwn – Julie Stelmaszewski – likes to be compared with, but does not have. Which in turn lets Ms. Valo pull this heavy cart out of the mud more than once. As in Show Me How to Die, where a somewhat simplistic song structure got revived by sheer voice power.
And up muddy creek we are with Battle Beast.
The whole production suffers from one of those polished overproductions. An ever-trailing compression – slight as it may be – that somehow disturbs. As if Steel, our supposed bare-bones record, wants to become a dreaded Symphonic Metal piece in all its bombastic splendor. Or worse, something that jumps right into the ubiquitous melting pot Power Metal is made of. I also found the somewhat abusive use of keys and synthesizers a bit disturbing. For something that clearly boasts metal-ness as one of its main features.
Yet, nothing takes away from that corny Heavy Metal touch that permeates this whole record. Down to a slightly cringe-worthy metal ballad. And all the above notwithstanding, I could probably listen to The Band of the Hawk for a few times without pause. Or indulge in Steel – the title track – if only for the typical riff, combined with a cool solo and the tremendous metal screams.
In all, Steel delivers some real ’80s style Heavy Metal in many of its aspects that did my soul good. There’s not much of that around these days anymore, so this record is a welcome change.
Battle Beast shalt even be forgiven for biting into pretty much every slice of cheese they could find. The somewhat bombastic and overly enthusiastic use of all those stereotypes does, however, not really help the overall quality of the record.
Yet again, Nitte Valo really dominates this steely record with her elastic voice that will make Thomas Winkler make hang his head in shame. And this makes up for many of those early signs of more unpleasant things to come in future.
A true Heavy Metal piece, so full of steel, iron, and metal that I am tempted to slap on my armor and offer battle to the beast. But I fear, this battle cannot be won, they are just too strong. And you risk slipping on all that cheese too.
Get dat tune: