Just Highs No Lows (12 Years Of Persistence)
posted on 11/2009 By:
NOTE: because this is a "best of" release, the songwriting portion of the score is representative of the album's "essentialness," for lack of a better term, and is not intended to be a reflection of Brainstorm's ability to craft a catchy tune...which they are more than capable of doing.
Brainstorm have been producing quality European power metal for the better part of the last 12-years, and I love 'em for it. But a double-disc "best of" collection that essentially skips their first two records and still manages to clock in at over 2-1/2 hours long? Who the hell's at the helm of this ship, Steven King?
To be perfectly honest, I'm not a very big fan of "best of" releases to begin with. I can understand their value when initially investigating a band with an enormous discography, but for the most part they seem little more than an "easy out" for both label and band when there's one more in the chamber in terms of having to fulfill a record contract. That's precisely what came to mind when this particular album hit the MetalReview doorstep. I was initially excited about the prospect of getting the band's new release, but instead stood bewildered with this weighty tome staring up at me like an abandoned baby tucked into a basket ("What the hell am I supposed to do with this??").
So, what's the reasoning behind 32-tracks of looking back on Brainstorm's Metal Blade years? The band's 5-record contract ended with 2008's Downburst, so I'm guessing this is just Metal Blade's final attempt to ride the Brainstorm train as their fans begin to digest their AFM Records debut, Memorial Roots. Or perhaps it's mostly intended to hit power metallers' collective letters to Santa? Regardless of the reason, Just Highs No Lows (12-years of Persistence) is an excessive release that, despite its epic length, still manages to make some glaring omissions.
The first ten tracks (!) are devoted to the band's most recent two records, including three ballads: "End In Sorrow" (groan), "Heavenly" (groanier) and "All Those Words" (groaniest). Mind-boggling, considering they eclipsed kickass Liquid Monster selections such as "Lifeline" and "Invisible Enemy". 2003's Soul Temptation gets the heaviest nod of the first disc with six tracks represented -- a mildly more understandable move considering this album best represents the balance between the band's more aggressive, Iced Earth-styled power metal of the early days and the more melodic, infectious blueprint used today. Still, six songs is a stretch, and I can't help but wonder why a true headbanger like "To the Head" was omitted.
Both 2000's Ambiguity and 2001's Metus Mortis get four tracks apiece, making up for over 40-minutes of the second disc. Again, excessive considering "Hollow Hideaway" and "Maharaja Palace" could easily have been trimmed. It's also strange that a lengthy ballad-esque selection like "Beyond My Destiny" took precedence over a rippin' cut like "Crush Depth", but I suppose that's just a matter of personal taste.
The real prize of disc2 is the bonus material that makes up the last eight tracks. "Face Down" is a catchy little number previously only available on the Metus Mortis digipack, and "Breathe", "Drowning" and "Crawling in Chains" were all previously only available as Japanese bonus tracks from the Liquid Monster/Downburst sessions (the first two are particularly good. The third...not so much). Things are rounded out with a nice rendition of Priest's "Before the Dawn", a throw-away cover of an old Tony Christie tune and two live recordings of "Voices" and "Liar's Edge" from the band's first two records.
Despite the fact that I enjoy a good deal of Brainstorm's brand of catchy, modern European power metal, I don't recommend picking up Just Highs No Lows. There's just too much fat to be trimmed, too many omissions and too many other releases this year more worthy of your bucks. Still, if you're looking for a great Brainstorm starting point, I recommend seeking out Soul Temptation post haste. And as for me, I'm still waiting on Memorial Roots to hit the doorstep.
Register to post comments.