When things go spectacularly tits up, the only sensible response is to dust yourself off and get back to it. In 2015, Anton Kabanen left Battle Beast after a major fallout with other members. Having founded the Finnish power metallers in 2008, not to mention chosen their name, written every song and co-created their mascot (the Beast) with artist Roman Ismailov, he could be forgiven for being somewhat bitter and twisted at this point, particularly as Battle Beast appear to be doing pretty well without him. But instead, Anton has simply formed a new band and picked up where he unexpectedly left off two years ago.
“My original vision was to make a heavy metal band, similar to my own idols like Judas Priest, Manowar, WASP and Accept,” he explains. “It lasted quite a few years but there were tensions between me and some of the others in Battle Beast. I started the band – it was my child from the beginning – but when we started arguing about our direction and then who owned the rights to the name, it was obviously a bad situation. In the end, certain forces meant I had to accept that the others keep the name. I wanted to keep going so Beast In Black takes me back to my original vision.”
Judging by the explosive and enjoyably over-the-top metal anthems on Beast In Black’s debut album, Berserker, the sound Anton unveiled on the first three Battle Beast albums has been given a robust upgrade. Chuck in occasional curveballs like demented disco-metal singalong Crazy, Mad, Insane, and artwork that could hardly be more metal if it was carved in steel, and Anton’s return should prove wholly irresistible to broad-minded fans of balls-out traditional metal.
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“I’m sure some of the purist guys will think it’s blasphemy to have a song like Crazy, Mad, Insane,” he laughs. “But most metalheads are pretty open-minded when it comes to that variety of styles, as long as the core of what we do is still heavy metal. We just use different flavours. Only in metal can you can go from a whisper into a deathly roar. There’s no other genre where you can experiment so wildly.”
As with the early Battle Beast albums, Beast In Black’s debut takes much inspiration from manga master Kentaro Miura’s dark fantasy classic, Berserk. In fact, the band’s name is a direct tribute to Anton’s ongoing obsession with the Japanese comic.
“My friend introduced me to it back in 2006 and I have been in love with it ever since,” he says. “I’ve been writing songs about it from the start. The main character, the Black Swordsman, his spirit animal is the Beast Of Darkness. It’s all about continuity. The word ‘beast’ obviously connects to my past, so we became Beast In Black. Roman [Ismailov, artist] created the first Battle Beast album cover and now he’s done our first album. We’re going to keep the Beast character on the album covers in future as well.”
Currently on tour in Europe with Anton’s idols WASP, Beast In Black will focus on their new material until they are able to play bigger, headlining shows. At that point, they will wheel out plenty of Battle Beast classics, too. More importantly, Anton is back in business and full of optimism that, this time, everything will go exactly to plan.
“There are some very elemental, basic things that have to be in place for a band to achieve its full potential,” he concludes. “The music, the mentality, the live performance, they are all important. We have all of that. Most of all, we all stand behind the fact that we’re a heavy metal band. This has always been my dream.”
Berserker is out now via Nuclear Blast.