Circus Of Doom

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Circus Of Doom
02. Wings Of Light
03. Master Of Illusion
04. Where Angels Fear To Fly
05. Eye Of The Storm
06. Russian Roulette
07. Freedom
08. The Road To Avalon
09. Armageddon
10. Place That We Call Home

As much as many of us love to wallow in darkness and horror, virtually everybody is susceptible to occasional doses of bright-eyed and bombastic heavy metal joy. BATTLE BEAST are certified experts in this department, of course. From an early run of albums that established the Finns as major contenders, to the near-perfect, wall-to-wall anthem riot of 2017's "Bringer Of Pain" (the band's first record without founding guitarist Anton Kabanen, now of BEAST IN BLACK) and its almost-as-good follow-up "No More Hollywood Endings" (2019),they have made a habit of sidestepping the usual power metal cliches, injecting pop sensibilities into a wildly diverse array of thunderous, old-school musical ideas and, thanks to the presence and vocal talents of the extraordinary Noora Louhimo, have increasingly sounded like the pizzazz-drenched last word in singalong, riff-driven bravado. And if that sounds like an overly generous dollop of hyperbole — well, BATTLE BEAST make such a joyous, unpretentious noise throughout "Circus Of Doom" that deadpan analysis feels wildly inappropriate. Authentic misanthropes aside, this record will force a smile out of all who hear it.

As the opening track boisterously proclaims, the circus is coming to town here. BATTLE BEAST have always been great songwriters, but they have embraced a more expansive and pointedly theatrical sound this time, fulfilling the over-the-top promise of the album's title in the process. Orchestral embellishments abound on "Circus Of Doom", alongside some of the heaviest riffing the Finns have ever attempted and a huge, spiraling melody that, in the best possible way, reeks of Broadway. It's a breathtaking start, and one that instantly magnifies the irresistible twinkle in this band's collective eye: this, it says, is going to be a shitload of fun.

And so it proves, with another dazzling run of absurdly catchy, balls-out metal tunes that might just make you feel slightly better about the state of things. "Wings Of Light" is a lethal and immediate BATTLE BEAST banger, with Noora hitting notes that other heavy metal singers can only dream of, and an instantly memorable chorus of almost indecent size; "Master Of Illusion" takes the band back to infectious disco-metal territory, '80s AOR vibes high on the agenda, but still awash with big riffs and virtuoso lead breaks; "Where Angels Fear To Fly" is a lush, mid-paced power metal ballad, with a Noora vocal that will pin you to the wall and a brilliantly macabre mid-section that perfectly sets up an explosive, curtains-down finale. The driving and angsty "Eye Of The Storm" is another classic BATTLE BEAST stomper, once again with a chorus of unfeasible enormity; "Russian Roulette" is a fiery and propulsive mini-symphony, brimming with skittering '80s electronics and synthesized drums and, almost inevitably, blessed with another wildly memorable chorus and all the musical theater trimmings. Powered by a rugged, none-more-metal gallop, "Freedom" is one of the shiniest gems on offer: a jolting dose of pure, hands-in-the-air exuberance that, as Noora stridently declares, delivers "metal for your soul" with rather more intensity than casual observers might expect. The remaining three songs — a "The Road To Avalon", "Armageddon" and "Place That We Call Home" — are every bit as good as the rest, each boasting a colossal core refrain and vast quantities of conviction and, most importantly, warmth and goodwill.

It's not a particularly radical notion: ten joyful heavy metal songs, performed with much luster and passion, and rendered in the brightest of sonic shades. But right now, any record this unapologetic in its mission to entertain, liberate and lift the spirits deserves all the credit in the world.

Author: Dom Lawson
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