Squealer may not be a name you recognise, unless you're reading this from Germany, but they've been around since 1984, without ever splitting up, and this is their ninth studio album, so I felt I should be paying attention.
They play heavy metal and it's often fast, but it leans towards power metal flavour more than thrash. The opener, Into the Flames, may be the fastest song on the album, but it's honest about its melodic power leanings. If we had any doubt, Squealer make it crystal clear with Salvation, which is slower and immediately accessible. I've tried and failed to figure out why I struggle with Into Flames, as I enjoy a lot of its parts, but the song itself somehow leaves me dry. Salvation, on the other hand, I liked from its initial bouncy rhythms and even more once the killer chorus hit.
And, as the album ran on, I liked the whole thing more and more, whether it was fast or slow, thrashy or powerfully melodic. There doesn't seem to be much flow between the different types of song. For a while, there's an alternation between slower/more melodic and faster/more urgent, but it's not quite that simple. It's almost like Squealer don't quite know what style they want to play. There are quite a few different bands wanting to emerge here.
On Bad Tasting Sin, they hint at doom metal, but with power metal melodies overlaid. On Insanity, a faster version of the same thing places them as straightforward heavy metal. Salvation is pure power metal but My Journey moves them right into Teutonic thrash. Hunter of Myself kicks off like melodic death metal, though the vocals never go there, remaining clean and Helloweeny, even if an edge does creep in later. There's even a theatrical power ballad to wrap things up, Black Rain, with a pair of guest singers: Bernhard Weiß from Axxis and Zak Stevens from Savatage and Circle II Circle.
I'm all for variety, but this does feel a little schizophrenic. There are points where I feel like I've put a Helloween album on (former Helloween guitarist Roland Grapow only guests on one song), but others where I wonder if I'd actually slipped on a Kreator album by mistake. Then I blink and I'm listening to Rhapsody or Accept or...
This schizophrenia can even manifest within a single song, such as My Journey, surely the fastest song here outside of Into Flames. It ratchets up the pace and energy substantially while toning down all of the grand melodies, so we find ourselves firmly in Kreator territory, but with a power metal chorus on hyperspeed double bass and that seems a little odd. Maybe the clue was in the album title, because at least some of this is Insanity, indeed.
At the end of the day, however unsure Squealer seem about what they want to play, they play it well. I really enjoyed this and think I need to dip into the band's back catalogue to figure out what I've been missing all this time. Rather disparate parts of this album stayed with me overnight and, while I can't quite explain why I like some of this so much, I know that I do. For instance, one of my favourite songs here is Low-Flying Brains, even though it features a stunningly underwhelming chorus. I wondered if Sebastian Werner had got bored with it within the four and a half minutes it runs, but good grief, it's stuck in my head!
All of which makes me think like I haven't got over any idea of what this album sounds like. How can I when I'm not entirely sure myself? But I like it. If something piques your interest here, I'm sure this is on YouTube somewhere. Check it out and see if they grab you too, even if you can't explain why.