Brainstorm’s Memorial Roots, out now in North America following its European release a few months ago, is more of what made the band’s last full-length, 2008’s Downburst, so damn good – in fact, this album is perhaps even more diversified in its sound and scope. Right out of the gate, the chunky riffing of “Forsake What I Believe” is complimented by vocalist Andy B. Franck’s powerful, wide-ranging vocal delivery that tends to stay in lower registers than most contemporary European power metal. “Shiver” and “Cross The Line,” well, cross the line into speed metal territory, showcasing the blitzkrieg diversity that makes Brainstorm such a consistently great band: catchy riffs, catchier choruses, memorable lead work that steers clear of wankery, the ability to write slow, fast, and mid-paced songs… and everything in between. In fact, “The Final Stages Of Decay” is classic, anthmetic Brainstorm-esque power metal; it darts between tempos and structure enough in six minutes to almost call it proggy.

Franck also puts in time in Symphorce, so power metal nerds (full disclosure: file me under that category) ought to recognize his distinct croon, which falls somewhere in-between Stratovarius’ over-the-top highs and Lemmy’s ‘sort of singing’ tone; Franck doesn’t gargle gravel before bed, but he can also steer clear of cupping his nuts every time he wants to hit a high note.

There is a lack of the sharp polish that was ever present during Brainstorm’s Metal Blade years. Thankfully, a little grunge or grime in the mix doesn’t detract from the overall merit of Memorial Roots’ musical material, and it may actually accomplish a crisper sound, most notable on the record’s faster tracks. All in all, though, Brainstorm still writes songs that are both musical and memorable. If you can muster up the courage to claim a soft spot for power metal in public, then chalk up another win for these Germans.

(3 1/2 out of five horns)


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