Battle Beast with Majesty and Gyze at the Ruby Lounge, Manchester – 23 March 2017
Unfortunately, Battle Beast chose to bring their form of Finnish Power Metal to Manchester on the same day when all the metal warriors had embarked on their annual pilgrimage to Hammerfest a yearly weekend festival. This unfortunately impacted greatly on crowd numbers in a week which had already seen metal gigs on each of the preceding 6/7 nights. I did, however, meet two fans that had travelled from both North and South Ireland, thus proving the band do actually have a fan base. Originally formed in 2008, the band had undergone several line-up changes. The major of these being the departure of original vocalist Nitte Valo in 2012, which was followed in 2015 by the moving on of original guitarist Anton Kabanen. For many bands this would have proved extremely difficult to continue. However, it is to the extreme credit of Battle Beast that with the introduction of vocalist Noora Louhimo and guitarist Joona Bjorkroth, the band have actually gone on and flourished. The band achieved significant chart placings, including a number one chart spot for Unholy Savior in its debut week of release. The band have extended their global touring schedule and appear to be eternally on the road. I was able to gain some insight into flamboyant vocalist Noora’s personal character ahead of the show itself, including the revelation that the band now felt released and that they had much more creative freedom than they had previously. Unfortunately, as seems to be the regular occurrence on show days, the scheduled interview slot didn’t run according to plan and took place later than was originally scheduled. This resulted in me missing most of the opening band. However, my photographer was on the ball and was able to capture all of the bands on the bill.
I only caught half of the set of the opening band Gyze, who describe themselves as Japanese melodic death metal. Quite the unusual combination, and surely melody and death metal should not even be used together in the same sentence. I have not actually liked a Japanese band since Loudness and Vow Wow back in the eighties and unfortunately, Gyze did little to change that situation. Still, they seemed to appeal to the few audience members who had bothered to come into the venue early to check out the opening support band. Clichéd in both their stage moves and their music, I failed to see any element of originality regarding their performance.
Billed as special guests, Majesty have quite a long musical history dating back to the nineties and are not dissimilar from DragonForce or Manowar in style and lyrical subjects matter. They appeared to have quite a following among the Manchester metal fans, as they sang along to most of the tracks that they played. Surviving many band member changes and even a dissolution of the Majesty name – they have prevailed and this year’s album release, Rebels, appeared to have marked a new element in the band’s characteristic power metal sound. Their performance was energetic and I really liked their delivery. A very visual band where each separate component was given its own time in the spotlight. Complete with classical introduction, traditional smoke, hair wind milling and solo spots, it had all the basic elements of many of the metal shows that dominated my upbringing. Definitely a band that I would be very keen to go and see live again. Shades of another era musically certainly, but unlike the previous band Gyze, they focussed on the better elements. Tracks like “Die Like Kings” did bear some elements of Manowar and the latest album title track “Rebels of Our Time” had a huge sing-along chorus. In conclusion, however, Majesty were able to triumph as they did showcase an element of diversity in their performed songs, such as the anthemic “Across the Lightning,” which was my personal favourite of the night.
Battle Beast are essentially a vehicle for vocalist Noora Louhimo to illustrate her range and diversity in singing. Recently album releases from the band have further developed melodic elements to their signature sound. This is positive in that the band appear confident enough to evolve from their natural comfort zone and challenge themselves musically. I have seen many great female vocalists recently, including Tarja, but Noora certainly stands right up there with the best of them. Whether belting out powerful heavier tracks or lighter melodic moments – like the tracks “Lost in Wars” and “Far from Heaven” which gave Noora a chance to fully highlight the subtle side of her voice in an amazingly powerful song of beauty. It has to be added that the other components of the Battle Beast do indeed play their part in weaving the sonic tapestries that constitute the band’s traditional sound. They have also successfully made the step up from supporting artists like Sabaton, Delain, and Within Temptation, into headlining status. I hope that the low crowd numbers that Battle Beast faced in Manchester will not dissuade them from a speedy return to the UK and allow them to play more dates over here – but on a non-Hammerfest weekend. They deserve a better attended venue; their performance certainly warrants that at least.