REVIEW: BEYOND THE BLACK – “Hørizøns”
Over the last four years, Beyond the Black have proven relentless in their determination to climb to the top of the Symphonic Metal mountain and claim their place among the greats. And to be fair, the German quintet are making a pretty good go of it. Yet their dominating self-assertion, despite it positives, can make any such aspirations feel a little premature. As their latest album, ‘Hørizøns,’ sometimes makes all too clear.
Injecting a Pop sensibility into Metal is something that has often been practiced, and has produced some memorable results. As is true for a great deal of ‘Hørizøns’. However, it doesn’t always work. Indeed, “Misery” feels less like a track born of Beyond the Black, and more as if Pop-duo, The Veronicas, burst into the studio in an obnoxious, “hold my beer” kind of moment. Similarly, “I Won’t Surrender” comes across contrived as if it were written fireside with ‘The Little Book of Generic, Melancholy Piano Ballads” in their back pocket. Which is curious, as Beyond the Black have previously thrived and triumphed in such Pop/Metal hybrid ballads with songs like, “Through the Mirror”. Thankfully the majority of ‘Hørizøns’ gifts us with much stronger numbers. Including a groove riddled “Some Kind of Monster”, the subliminally atmospheric “Coming Home”, and a stunning duet entitled “Wounded Healer”, featuring Elize Ryd, of Amaranthe.
When we look at the royals of Symphonic Metal such as Nightwish, Within Temptation and Epica, one standout commonality in their DNA is they are each led by a vocalist with a strong, spry and striking voice. Beyond the Black share this distinction, with Jennifer Haben’s vocals supplying the lifeline at the epicenter of ‘Hørizøns’, with well-crafted instrumentation working around it. Haben is the face of Beyond the Black, and the only remaining original member as of 2016. Not that you’re likely to forget it with her image appearing three times on the album artwork. Yet Haben commands, and delivers, with the full involvement of her bandmates behind her. Songs such as the irresistibly good “Golden Pariahs,” and the howling harmonies of “Paralyzed” emphasize this. Together, they capture Haben’s sonorous vocals married with the melodious Pop-Metal soundscapes orchestrated by Stefan Harkenhoff (Bass), Chris Hermsdofer (Guitars/Backing Vocals), Tobi Lodes (Guitars/Backing Vocals) and Kai Tschierschky (Drums). Songs highlighting the natural progression of a band honing their craft through rigorous work and maturing as songwriters.
It is no secret that Beyond the Black have gone stratospheric within the scene. Their music swept up by their ever-growing fanbase at the same speed toilet paper seems to disappear from supermarket shelves these days. June 19th will see the release of their latest effort, ‘Hørizøns,’ following on from 2018’s widely popular ‘Heart of the Hurricane’. ‘Hørizøns’ is a powerhouse demonstration of a captivating band continuing to grow, coming more into their own, even if several songs feel less enriched so much as forced, formulaic, and even influenced. Perhaps this album will prove to be an ambitious experiment by a band in transition. For when it works, the relationship between Symphonic Metal and Pop delivers some explosive songs you won’t soon forget. When it doesn’t, this same formula gives us something far more rushed, benign, and diluted in its hurry to claim the mountain top. There is little doubt that Beyond the Black can complete their ascension up the Symphonic Metal mountain. And ‘Hørizøns’ certainly brings them that bit closer