Noble Beast – Noble Beast
Noble Beast – Noble Beast (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Ah, I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Noble Beast was one of the first local bands I heard play upon moving to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and has always remained that which best resonates with my personal preferences for potent but ultra-hooky power metal. Interestingly, it means I’m going to be one of the few critics that hears this album with pre-conceived notions and personal opinions on how the songs should sound – and hopefully I’ll be forgiven for that.
“Iron-Clad Angels” is the explosive album opener that I always hoped it would make. This has been an earworm for me for the last several years since getting a CD-R demo from the band at a show, and hearing it done justice with a proper studio job is a minor dream come true. I won’t spend any more time comparing any of these first three songs (or “The Noble Beast”) to that demo, other than to say that somehow I find that the energy on the demo recording of this song exceeds this one. Despite Rob Jalonen’s vastly improved vocals, the newfound vocal harmony treatment, and the crisp guitar production, I have a soft spot for the old one and can’t choose between the two. The good news for everyone is: this is really the only way in which this CD has let me down (if at all).
The facelifts of “Behold The Face Of Your Enemy” and “Master Of Depravity” are absolutely stellar however, particularly the latter: a heavy, dark trudge culminating in one of the band’s numerous roar-along choruses. “The Dragon Reborn” marks the first “newer” (in quotations because who knows when it was written) track for the album that I’d not heard before. A very straightforward, marching power metal anthem that, in comparison to surrounding tracks, is almost underwhelming, “The Dragon Reborn” will get a lot of play from me, regardless.
The middle of the album flares the hottest, and online single “We Burn” features the strongest collection of melodies this side of Blind Guardian, followed relentlessly with the more of the same as the band’s eponymous song takes center stage with what may be Sir Robert’s finest vocal performance on the album during the verse. The carousing chorus of “Peeling Back The Veil” and rip-scorching, retributive percussive assault of “Disintegrating Force” present a new side to the band’s song-writing which, despite being drenched in potent guitar and memorable choruses, has often been fairly basic at its core up to this point. These two songs inject a much –appreciated shot of adrenaline to revitalize the album, so that when the more predictable “On Wings Of Steel” arrives, it’s more of a fist-raising return to greatness rather than “one more song”. Closer “Nothing To Repent” ends on a grand and uplifting note with its bombastic chorus, and varies Noble Beast’s songwriting formula enough to avoid overstaying its welcome.
From a top-down view, Noble Beast is a well-paced album that only really lacks a finish as strong as its beginning and middle (I would have used “The Noble Beast” to wrap things up). For power metal that is steeped in simple tradition, the album’s a bit of a dichotomy. Rob and Matt Hodsdon (especially Matt) are talented guitarists that enjoy veering off the beaten path with their solos, thereby extending these often otherwise-uncomplicated compositions with lucid power metal wankery. Given the quality of the solos, I don’t mind this, but some listeners are bound to feel that a number of the songs run on a bit long.
Rob’s voice is as distinctive as ever, and works as a powerful force when swathed in layered tracks. If there was one major item that could have been fixed between the demo and this album, it was Rob’s falsetto screams. I don’t know if Sir Robert ever got my memo on that point, but the vocals here are nothing but tasteful, comfortable, and admirable, and I’m a happy power metal boy scout. For the future, I think the only immediate thought that comes to mind to improve Noble Beast’s method is maturing and advancing its songwriting. Which, given the time when at least some of these songs were written, is something that I believe is bound to happen naturally for forthcoming music.
Immediately recommendable to any fan of guitar-driven, chorus-centric power metal, Noble Beast is a forceful, compelling, and invigorating album chock full of power metal inspiration, joy, and, well…power, with nary a moment to spare to screw around with silly ballads. When I claim that this is a top-tier release for the year, I don’t just mean “Nice job on your first album guys, ma and pa couldn’t be more proud!”, I mean “You’d best get cracking Germany and Sweden, because Minnesota is on the map and it’s your move”. Yes, it’s that accomplished, and it makes me damn proud of my local power metal scene.
4.5 // 5