2021 is a rather grim year for mankind: people not being allowed to meet, having to keep distance and only being able to stay in touch online, but there’s always been a glimpse of hope - at least for fans of powerful heavy metal anthems. At a small place called Sound Quest Studio, international heavy metal quintet BEAST IN BLACK - Anton Kabanen (guitarist and band founder), Yannis Papadopoulos (vocals), Kasperi Heikkinen (guitars), Mate Molnar (bass) and Atte Palokangas (drums) - have moved even closer together to complete the ominous third chapter of their BEAST-like musical trilogy, that comprises all chapters of Kabanen’s musical path - fittingly titled Dark Connection.
After the superb success of their first two records - their debut Berserker (2017) and its follow up From Hell With Love (2019), both platinum-certified in Finland, and the latter of the two also hitting the top 10 of the German album chart - sharp riffs and hyper-catchy choruses are still the dominating elements of the group’s sound. Elements that have allowed the band to cultivate battalions of listeners all over the world. BEAST IN BLACK kick-started their live career with a couple of tours alongside well-known acts such as RHAPSODY, as well as a notable European arena run with symphonic metal masters NIGHTWISH that paved the way to their very own, mostly sold-out headline gigs. A memorable concert in front of 4,500 enthusiastic metalheads from all over the globe at Helsinki’s Ice Hall in December 2019 built the grand finale of their From Hell With Love touring cycle - just 10 months after performing for an 'only' 1,500 person strong audience in the same city! But that’s enough words for now about the quintet’s still young history…
Produced, recorded and mixed by Anton Kabanen himself as well as mastered by Emil Pohjalainen (Amethyst Sound Productions), Dark Connection may feature the most prominent synths of all of BEAST IN BLACK’s recordings so far, especially in the form of the Italo disco, Euro beat and symphonic elements that the band are so widely loved for. Despite that, at its core it’s still all about simple heavy metal.
“The best and strongest songs are those that can get stripped down and turned into acoustic versions: with the line-up only including guitar or piano plus vocals, but without the melodies losing their very essence,” begins Anton. “I actually started to get really excited about the new material in its midi-demo form. If it sounds really good and you can’t get enough of those melodies in such an early form of a song, there just has to be something memorable, right? Do you remember the old-school music from Nintendo and Super Nintendo games?“ explains the gaming fan one of his main sources of inspiration. “Very simple sound chips and limited resources pushed composers to write fantastic ageless melodies.”
The kind of ageless melodies that Kabanen has always been able to create. These tunes once again melt with heroic stories that are rooted in sci-fi, fantasy and cyberpunk, that are represented in the artwork of the band’s long-time companion Roman Ismailov. “There’s a few ongoing themes on the album at least, one of them might even be familiar to fans of my earlier work,” Anton reveals. “Tracks such as 'Highway To Mars' and 'Moonlight Rendezvous' lead into the cyberpunk worlds of the Armitage III anime series and are even partly Blade Runner-inspired.”
But could there really be a BEAST IN BLACK album without Berserk? Of course not, and there will never be. Berserk is one of, if not the, guitarist’s favourite manga series which the band once again pays tribute to on the new album in the form of 'Dark New World', 'To The Last Drop Of Blood' and 'Broken Survivors'.
Whether it’s rapid bangers such as 'Blade Runner' and 'Revengeance Machine' or more sensitive songs such as the aforementioned 'Broken Survivors' and album closer 'My Dystopia' - alongside the seasoned musicians, the outfit’s lead singer Yannis Papadopoulos has offered up his 'last drop of blood' in the end too: “He’s one of those rare singers that can do anything!” praises Anton of the Greek vocal phenomenon. “He’s a very dedicated singer, and he doesn’t just do one or two takes - he does as many as it takes for a perfect result.” And you can clearly hear that on the group’s third studio album: “There are so many impressive Yannis moments all over Dark Connection. I’m quite sure people will find themselves thinking: 'Is this Yannis too?!' - and most of the times it’s really him. Sure, my raspy screams, some epic duets and a lot of back-up vocals can be heard too, but Yannis’ performance is definitely the most diverse he has ever delivered,” he concludes.
A mighty arsenal of hits, that’s been extended by the 11-track wonder that is Dark Connection, another extensive European headline run (fingers crossed!) in sight and a consistently growing fan base worldwide, all thanks to a band that are as motivated as ever. Do you think there is any end boss that could prevent the BEAST from easily jumping from level to level or even skipping some of the obstacles in the heavy music 'game'…? You may have guessed it right: there’s none!
“[BEAST IN BLACK], you possess [our] restless [heavy metal] heart[s]!”