Continuing on from last year, my new year’s resolution once again is to expand the breadth of my musical knowledge and experience. As with last year, I’m listening to the discography of a different band each month.
As mentioned last time out, I’ve fallen slightly behind. My previous entry saw me take a look at US stoner americana folksy proggy grungsters All Them Witches. To make up for not doing a discography in April, I intend to do squeeze in an extra one somewhere. Partially because of this, I’ve opted for a band with only a couple of albums this time – Beyond the Black.
Background: Prior to their booking at Bloodstock last year I had never heard of them. I listened to couple of tracks before seeing them there, and was blown away with how professional a band with just two albums to their name are. Their songs were catchy and they were accomplished musicians. All that being said, it took me until recently to check them out again.
– Songs of Love and Death
In the Shadows kicks things off. Immediately I’m thinking of Within Temptation a bit here. It’s a good, solid opener that tells you what BtB are about. Nice inclusion of flutes. Songs of Love and Death is a song that’s been in my head since Bloodstock and a genuine belter of a tune. Musically it (and a few others on the album) reminds me of the crunchy rhythm guitar/symphonic keyboard combo that bands like Nightwish and Avantasia utlise. Unbroken is the first ballad on the album and is a little disappointing. Things pick ack up with When Angels Fall. The sound switches between symphonic metal and a sort of contemplative acoustic melody that – for some reason – reminds me of Stone Sour’s Bother. Pearl in a World of Dirt has guest lead vocals from Hannes Brawne of Kissin’ Dynamite. It’s the second ballad on the album, and is the far superior. Acoustic guitars and the flute also make a pleasant return. I don’t what it is about Hallelujah, but it strikes me as a b-side (or 4th or 5th single from the same album). Maybe it’s because it came straight after two of their better tracks and it would have fared better elsewhere on the album? Running to the Edge ramps up the tempo and is one of their better songs – you can see why this closes their set. At this point, the album was on for a really good score. However, Numb, Drowing in Darkness and Afraid of the Dark are all – whilst not bad in the slightest – a little bit by-the-numbers compared to the earlier songs. Fall into Flames is a bit better, and then we get their interesting take on Motorhead’s Love Me Forever to close. It works really well as a piano centric tune and is a fune closer.
No reinventions of the wheel here, but definitely an album that fans of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Avantasia would probably enjoy. As debut albums go, it’s pretty swish, if let down a little by a back end that doesn’t quite hold up to the scrutiny of the first half.
Songs of Love and Death, When Angels Fall, Pearl in a World of Dirt, Running to the Edge.
– Lost in Forever
Opening up Beyond The Black’s only other album to date is an absolute cracker of a title track. Lost in Forever takes the melody/catchiness of Songs of Love and Death and marries it to the tempo/urgency of Running to the Edge. Great stuff. Beautiful Lies is their second duet (this time with current At Vance and Masterplan frontman Rick Altzi), and it’s pretty darn good. Pearl in a World of Dirt sets a bar for BtB duets, and it almost matches it. Written in Blood isn’t quite on a par with the opening couple of tracks but it does have a solid, rousing chorus. Against the World is a power ballad that’s good-without-being-special. It could be a grower. Beyond the Mirror is similar to Written in Blood in terms of quality. It’s very easy on the ear and would make sense as a song chosen to extent a setlist as a ‘breather’ track between two more famous ones. Halo of the Dark is a strong album track that I suspect will be another to grow on me with multiple play throughs. If there were tiers to the quality of BtB tracks, Dies Irae would safely sit in the second top, just beneath their absolute best. A very catchy tune. Forget My Name is fine. Burning in Flames has a nice opening riff that reminds me, just a bit of contemporary Iron Maiden. The song itself isn’t bad, and the riff is better. Nevermore is a bit better. Shine and Shade has a neat bit of folkish instrumentation incorporated into the earlier portions. The verses sound like this song should sound a bit more like a story being retold, or a saga, and the very simple poppy chorus takes a little away from it. Not bad though. Heaven and Hell takes a slightly darker turn and is one of the better tracks in the back half of the album. Love’s a Burden is a neat, brooding acoustic track that closes out the original edition of the album (the tour edition tacks on another 3-4 songs).
Better than their debut, though suffering from the familiar issue of the back end of the album not being as strong as the first half. Still, the overall quality is up and they are going in the right direction.
Lost in Forever, Beautiful Lies, Dies Irae, Written in Blood
That wraps up Beyond the Black’s two albums. There’s some neat stuff on both, and fans of Nightwish, Within Temptation and Avantasia should definitely give it a whirl. If they ever manage to write a full album of the quality of the first halves of either of these, they’ll have created a syphonic metal classic. As it stands, it’s simply two good albums with great first halves.