2023 will surely be a fruitful year for the metal crops. One of the first pieces of solid proof we have in order to back this statement is the delayed Christmas gift that the German, Symphonic metal quintet: Beyond The Black are dropping from their studio sleigh in Germany; their self-titled album: “Beyond The Black”.
I have come to find, that when a band usually releases a self-titled album, they are finally in a comfortable place in their career, and have gained enough popularity and confidence, that they want to solidify their place in their genre, (Symphonic Metal) and be amongst its greats: Nightwish, Avantasia, Within Temptation; by dropping an official statement, so-to-speak, as to who they are and what they are all about. Now, that Jennifer Haben has managed to keep Beyond The Black running with the same line-up of members since 2016, have they been able to coherently put together “The” album which displays just that?
I discovered Beyond The Black in the distant feeling 2019 and I have been following their work ever since. The success of their last few albums has really elevated them in the European scene since they first set sail in 2014. They have experimented with their sound throughout that time, and it is intriguing to find out how their self-titled album has come together as a result of that journey.
The album surely doesn’t disappoint; it’s Beyond The Black, alright! Jennifer Haben’s angelic, but powerful voice, perfectly contrasted with Chris Hermsdörfer’s mighty backing growls and even mightier heavy riffs; coated with gentle melodies and solid lyrics depicting epic tales. What more could you want? The opening track: “Is There Anybody Out There”, is a true testament to that, as it punches you straight in the face with a heavy banger of a riff, making it my personal favorite track of the record, and rightfully taking its place in my “Ultimate Metal Playlist”.
Beyond The Black’s last album from 2019; “Hørizøns”, was an all-round different album, as the predominant sound had a “pop-y” overlay throughout, making it sound rather modern and distant from their roots in symphonic metal, which requires: thrilling, blood-boiling, mighty fantasy tales, with classical elements which evoke the “epic” feeling you would expect from a “Lord Of The Rings” style soundtrack, but wrapped in heavy metal.
“Beyond The Black” is a whole different beast of a record, however, as it brings back these elements of the genre, and adds more! From the get-go, in the opening track: “Is There Anybody Out There”, there is a predominant focus on high-pitched, folklore music-inspired vocals, which are the centerpiece of the song, positioned between every major verse, with the exclusion of the solo. They are truly punchy and “in your face”, so the band wants you to notice and appreciate them. This style of vocals comes in as a support to the lyrics as they elevate the “epic saga” themes of the songs, which further adds to the connotations of the symphonic metal genre. You can also find strong examples of this kind of vocals in the 9th track of the record: “Not In Our Name”.
The album surely doesn’t suffer from a lack of variety or exciting moments; there is plenty to go around! Further backing this statement is the flavourful addition of acoustic guitar elements in some of the songs, which playfully contrast the electric guitars at times. Another fruitful element I picked up on, is the occasional mirroring of pitch between the vocals and guitars. These quirky aspects of the songs truly make the album an original and enjoyable experience, as it forces you to listen closely and appreciate every detail.
As with just about everything, of course, you can’t have a perfect outcome, as there are too many variables and elements that bind everything together. Although I believe the mix to be sufficient and pleasant to the ears, I found the drums to be ever so slightly left on the back burner at times, and I believe that percussion should be punchier in every mix, but that could be a result of bias, so of course, it will vary between listeners. Furthermore, unlike the whole record, I found the drums somewhat lacking in an “IT” factor, they are just there supporting the action, which is not an issue, but more of a preference, which I believe would have impacted the overall quality of the album. Of course, these are deeper technical opinions for the sake of the review, which won’t bother the casual listener in any way.
In conclusion, the album delivers on being a solid addition to the symphonic metal genre, and although I wouldn’t label it as “genre-defining”, it certainly is career-defining for Beyond The Black! It truly is a worthy representation of what Beyond The Black are all about as a band. It keeps the elements that work and adds a plethora of new ones which makes it a pleasurable and exciting audible experience. It is safe to say that Beyond The Black are the “Heart Of The Hurricane” which will keep the legacy of the symphonic metal alive for years to come!