Live Review: Beast In Black - The Fleece, Bristol
22nd February 2023
Words: Rich Oliver
Photos: Damian John (Birmingham)
Despite its popularity in mainland Europe, power metal has always been a far more niche scene in the UK. It has always had its dedicated fan base but the UK rarely has arena filling UK shows with smaller tours and smaller venues always being part of the parcel when it comes to power metal gracing our shores. The tide has been turning of late with the accelerating popularity of bands such as Powerwolf and Sabaton and it seems that another band is soon to have a surge in popularity and that is FInnish band Beast In Black who have been on an extensive European and UK tour and managed to sell out the vast majority of the shows even in the UK. I went to a sold out show at The Fleece in Bristol to join in the power metal party of 2023.
It was a concise evening of just a headliner and a solitary support act and the support came in the form of long running Greek power metal band Firewind. This was the first time I had seen Firewind perform for a very long time and they have had a few significant line up changes since the last time I saw them grace a stage with frontman Herbie Langhans joining the band in 2020 and in the same year losing keyboard player and guitarist Bob Katsionis meaning that FIrewind are now reduced to a four piece. This meant that the band were quite reliant on a backing track for the keyboards and additional guitar parts.
With the Beast In Black stage set taking up most of the room on the limited sized stage in The Fleece it meant that Firewind were pushed up right to the front of the stage which meant limited movement for the band but this did not deter the band from a strong performance. Drummer Jo Nunez battered his kit into submission with an intensive performance whilst frontman Herbie Langhams put in a strong vocal performance with his melodic yet gravelly style. All eyes were on the founding member of the band and guitarist extraordinaire Gus G who ripped out crunching riffs and finger breaking solos aplenty especially during a fiery performance of ‘The Fire And The Fury’ where Gus brought out a very flashy guitar which lit up and emitted dry ice. Flashy gear for a very flashy song.
A muddy sound at the start of the set robbed the band of some of the power but this was quickly rectified and Firewind performed a nice mix of old and new material during their nine song set with old classics like ‘I Am The Anger’ and ‘Head Up High’ going down well with the crowd. We were also treated to a brand new song ‘Destiny Is Calling’ which (at the time of writing) had not yet been released. The band finished with their party anthem and cover of the Michael Sembello 80’s classic ‘Maniac’ which got the biggest singalongs from the crowd of the set and got the mood set for the party that was to follow.
As much as most metalheads would hate to admit, pop music has had a bearing and influence on a lot of heavy metal bands. Some bands acknowledge this influence and others wholeheartedly embrace it such as Beast In Black who could be mistaken for a pop act performing metal or a metal band performing pop. The result is some of the biggest and fun filled songs that have been unleashed in the power metal world for quite some time with big riffs and over the top vocals accompanied by a heavy use of synths which showcases the bands love of 80’s AOR and pop music.
This fun energy is very much brought by the band on stage who leaped and bounced around on stage with big grins on their faces and wholly embracing how fun heavy metal can be and how the silliness of the genre should be embraced as the band stepped into their perfectly choreographed and rehearsed moves and poses on stage. It also helps that the band are all fantastic musicians with the tight rhythm section of bassist Máté Molnár and drummer Atte Palokangas keeping everything in check whilst guitarists Kasperi Heikkinen and Anton Kabanen ripped out the riffs and bucketloads of killer solos.
Of course all eyes and ears were on frontman Yannis Papadopoulos whose voice is simply incredible and delivered in such a range switching from light and delicate to powerhouse screams in an instant. With this being the tour for the “Dark Connection” album a good chunk of the set was taken from said album with songs such as ‘Revengeance Machine’ and ‘Moonlight Rendezvous’ getting the crowd headbanging, bouncing and dancing in equal measure. Songs off the prior two albums were also extremely well received with the synth-heavy ‘Unlimited Sin’ and AOR sheen of ‘Sweet True Lies’ really getting the crowd moving whilst the trance-like ‘Crazy, Mad, Insane’ got the biggest bounces of the night and ‘Beast In Black’ got the crowd singing along. We were even treated to a massive ballad with ‘Oceandeep’ where the band channelled with inner Celine Dion.
With a cramped stage the band skipped the whole encore routine and simply stayed on stage tearing into a closing trio of ‘Cry Out For A Hero’, ‘One Night In Tokyo’ and ‘End Of The World’. It was a fantastic performance though a small criticism would be the heavy use of backing tracks for the synth parts. With an ever increasing use of synths in the band's sound it would be preferable to see a live keyboard player in their shows especially with the band gaining a bigger profile. The band had the same sound issues at the start of their set with the drums drowning out everything else but again this was soon rectified and all the instruments nicely balanced in the mix.
This was a show that was as over the top and silly as could be and the band are very self aware of that and play up to it and it is glorious. In times as miserable as these bands like Beast In Black should be wholly embraced as we definitely need to cheer in our lives and Beast In Black delivers that cheer in spadefuls. As seen by the packed out venue tonight and the massive response that the audience gave, cheery and fun-filled heavy metal is very much in demand and this will probably (and hopefully) be the last time we see Beast In Black play a small venue like The Fleece.