Brainstorm – Soul Temptation
So it’s album number five for one of my favourite German exports Brainstorm. Soul Temptation is a very interesting album, and as a result I will be giving this album a bit more of a retrospective critique. As far as critique of the last few albums went: it was quite easy to just roll out what was great about them and what wasn’t, as you would in any review. However, Soul Temptation requires a little further attention. I bid you jump into the time machine with me, destination: 2003.
First and foremost, and more so than any release the band did prior, or have done since; Soul Temptation is a product of the time it was released. The European power metal scene had become a pretty big deal by this time, and it was around the same time a lot of listeners were getting turned on to the genre. Miro and Sascha Paeth’s production style had firmly cemented their position as some of the best around, and the likes of Kamelot and Rhapdsody were at the height of their respective games. In fact, most of the big names in the genre were doing really well, and I think some of that had to have rubbed off on Brainstorm.
The sound on Soul Temptation is undeniably Brainstorm. However, the keys are a lot more prominent than on the last album, courtesy of none other than Miro, who whilst providing his skills on Metus Mortis, lends a lot more to Soul Temptation. For a Brainstorm album the keyboards are very prominent, and although largely serving as a backdrop, they bleed through the crisp mix for almost the entire duration of the album. The band’s signature style of thrashing power was also reined in a fair bit here, and often when I listen to Soul Temptation I can’t help but feel the album was conceived in a conscious decision to appeal to fans of acts such as Kamelot who were really starting to turn heads.
A lot of this spawns from the eastern-tinged melodies which grace a good wedge of Soul Temptation. Not to mention the further streamlined songs, with hooks meticulously crafted and the three piece “Trilogy of Lust” epic; there’s so much on here that brings to mind Kamelot, and further still almost anything Miro and Sascha Paeth have touched. It’s surprising that they didn’t actually produce the album, as this just reeks of those guys. Now this isn’t a bad thing, and a lot of people seemed to really favour this album when it came out. I’d definitely say this was the bands most unashamedly Euro power metal album, but don’t let that give you the impression this is double kicking, dragon slaying, frilly shirt wearing power metal.
Tracks such as the aforementioned “Trilogy of Lust” suite (if you could call it a suite), the opening magic of “Highs Without Lows” and title track all really show the direction the band took here on Soul Temptation. Those who enjoyed Metus Mortis and the band’s more aggressive side would do well with “Doorway to Survive” and “Dying Outside” which are both excellent examples of a musical smack-down. “The Leading” might just be my favourite track on the album though, with its catchy, pummeling lead riff, and superb vocal lines. It would be one of the songs I’d show anyone who were to ask “What does Brainstorm sound like?”
As I’ve commented throughout this review, I can’t stress enough how much I think this album is a product of the time it was released. I think Brainstorm looked outwards towards their peers, and I think Miro might well have given the band a few friendly pointers over the time he worked with them. Strangely enough, whilst Brainstorm’s formula for song writing was pretty well established by this tim, from here onwards every album would have a slightly differing flavor. Imagine Brainstorm as an ice-cream cone: from here, on you can be comforted in knowing you’re going to get that same, great brand of ice-cream; albeit with a different sprinkle each time around, and maybe even a flake for good measure (particularly in the case of Downburst and Memorial Roots).
If you ever cared about the European power metal scene from around 1999 to 2004 – which I like to now refer to as the “glory days” for the genre – then Soul Temptation is a mandatory addition to your collection.
Chris’ rating 4.5 out of 5