Brainstorm – Unholy
Just over a year after their savage debut release Hungry, Brainstorm unleashed their face-melting sophomore effort Unholy. Marcus was still singing with the band here, and in fact the entire line-up remained the same. I sometimes ponder which of the Brainstorm singers I prefer, and Unholy was without a doubt Marcus’ finest performance, and largely responsible for my indecisive weighing of the two singers talents.
In comparing Unholy with its predecessor there are a certain amount of changes that the band underwent in the short time between these two albums. For one the production was vastly improved, and the sound was much clearer and more crystalline. Secondly was the creeping in of influence from their predominantly power metal country-mates. Whilst Brainstorm would never truly drop their ferocious riffing, between this album and their latest (On the Spur of the Moment) there is a noticeable decline and shift in heaviness, and this is where the seeds of that shift were planted.
Fortunately those seeds would take many years to fully begin sprouting, and whilst there are nods to where the band would go in the future, for the most part Unholy listens as a slightly more melodic and superior version of their debut. This is where Brainstorm really began to grab a foothold on who they were, and I guess to an extent where they were going. Take a look at “Voices” which could proudly stand as the flagship Brainstorm song. Dark atmosphere, dramatic shift in dynamic, powerful riffs and of course a massive chorus. Without a doubt one of the bands finest offerings to date, and I must admit Andy sings this song very well.
Those who enjoyed the more aggressive tracks from their debut will be pleased to find a veritable feast of jagged edged power metal delights on Unholy. The opening one-two punch of “Holy War” and “Here Comes The Pain” makes for a pummeling start, with the former providing a lot in the way of post-thrash riffing, and the latter housing Marcus’ very best vocal performance, you’ve got to love that “I’m like a dog off a chain” line. Speaking of performances here, the band is in top form, resident axe-slingers Torsten and Milan really deliver the goods with neck-wrecking riffs and perfectly harmonized leads. Dieter’s drum battery is great, utilizing a nice array of techniques, with particularly good use of double kicks and even some tasteful half time/breakdown style beats. Andreas adds the gut busting low end here, and his work is pleasant if unspectacular.
Other brilliant numbers would include the Gamma Ray-on-steroids approach of “Heart Of Hate” (if you don’t chant like a madman to the heart of hate choirs in this song then there’s something going wrong) . “For The Love Of Money” is a great speed metal song, like if Stratovarius had a Mr. Hyde side, and “Dog Days Coming Down” is simply classic Brainstorm, with a particularly well done folk style intro.
All in all, a powerful release from one of Germany’s stalwart acts. In fact, I’d say this is just about their best although there are one or two further down the line which are of a similar quality. However, when I’m reaching for a Brainstorm album it is often Unholy: twelve absolutely killer tracks at just under an hour is massive value for your money, and I can assure you that every track has something to offer. Fans of the band who’ve yet to hear Unholy are going to want to make it a priority, and again those who like that dark, aggressive style of power metal are going to absolutely eat this up. Highly recommended listening!
Chris’ rating 4.5 out of 5