Primed and polished to a lustrous shine.
Despite the explosion of female-fronted symphonic metal acts that coincided with the mid-2010s being a major topic in metal media circles, the entry of German upstarts Beyond The Black into the fray seemed to come all but out of nowhere. With the instant backing of Nuclear Blast Records and being helmed by former German talent show winner and pop band Saphir singer Jennifer Haben, a few eyebrows had been raised and even some speculation that the band was a label contrivance. But whatever rumors were swirling around this band in their formative period, the sheer power and pizzazz that was displayed on their 2015 debut “Songs Of Love And Death” made them a hot item among symphonic metal trustees, spearheaded by Haben’s soaring voice, which bore a noticeable resemblance to famed Within Temptation vocalist Sharon Den Adel. Eight years, three subsequent studio albums and a couple lineup shakeups later, this fold continues to deliver a highly accessible yet fairly intricate assortment of bombastic fanfare that rivals many of the big names that have been at it for the better part of two decades, and their latest and eponymous studio album is no exception.
For those that have not been riding the waves that this outfit has been making since the beginning, the shift towards a lighter, rocking tone that commenced on 2018’s “Heart Of The Hurricane” with the changing out of all the original membership save Haben has given way to something a tad closer to their seminal sound here. The tone of the guitars has a bit more bite to them, and the riff work put forth by Winterstorm axe-slinger Tobias Lodes and Serenity guitarist Chris Hermsdorfer (arguably one of the more impressive six-string duos out there) proves to be pretty ambitious, to speak nothing for the blend of tasteful melodic and occasionally virtuosic solo work that graces each song. Meanwhile the symphonic bluster filling out the arrangement and drive of the drum work provided by Kai Tschierschky is noticeably darker and heavier, striking a tone that could be likened to a smoother blend of Nightwish’s “Once” and Within Temptation’s “The Silent Force.” Yet with all of these more aggressive elements firmly in place, a nuanced blend of atmospheric sorrow and dynamic contrast also plays a pivotal role in turning each of these compact anthems into a highly engaging listening experience.
Each of the ten sonic chapters that make up this well-rounded LP is a unique creature unto itself, often blurring the line between a fist-raising anthem and a melancholy exercise in modern power balladry. Bringing the energy with a powerful blend of punch and symphonic bluster is the opening banger “Is There Anybody Out There”, which in addition to being mercilessly catchy also sees Haben displaying some of her operatic chops to compete with a riveting guitar display out of Lodes and Hermsdorfer. Other up tempo beasts like “Winter Is Coming” and “Into The Light” bring a similar blend of technical flair and memorable hooks in a slightly more subdued fashion, while the grooving stomp with a dense orchestral overlay “Not In Our Name” leans a bit more towards modern Within Temptation mode of hard rocking goodness. By way of contrast, the folksy edge of “Reincarnation” and the dynamic power balladry of “Free Me” interweave some haunting acoustic guitar work into the equation and allow for Haben’s more subdued melodic tone to really shine. But the song that truly brings home the gold is the mystically-tinged sing-along romp “Dancing In The Dark”, which really lays into the symphonic side of the band’s sound and also sees the most dramatic progression from beginning to end in terms of emotional impact.
While Beyond The Black have yet to put out a bad album, there is a case to be made that they’ve tapered off a tad since the 2016 shakeup that saw all five of Haben’s band mates replaced, resulting in a pair of albums in “Heart Of The Hurricane” and “Horizons” that were noticeably less metallic despite the gravitas that the new lineup brought to the equation in said department. Those who’ve been of this mindset can easily rest assured that the same thunder that typified this outfit’s debut and sophomore LPs is back in full force here, touched up a bit with a greater level of studio polish and stylistic diversity. It’s maybe a tad behind those albums in terms of overall impact, as this one gets a bit more into the weeds in terms of world music influences and atmospheric interludes, but it’s no slouch to even the slightest degree. Newcomers who are drawn to such noted newer symphonic acts as Chaos Magic and Sleeping Romance, along with the noted classics in Delain, Within Temptation and Nightwish respectively, will find a similarly compelling blend of beauty and beast here.
Order “Beyond The Black” HERE.
Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: January 13th, 2023
Genre: Symphonic Metal
“Beyond the Black” Tracklisting:
1. Is There Anybody Out There
3. Free Me
4. Winter Is Coming
5. Into The Light
6. Wide Awake
7. Dancing In The Dark
8. Raise Your Head
9. Not In Our Name
10. I Remember Dying
11. I Remember Dying (Stranger Reprise)
12. Wide Awake (Piano Version)
13. Raise Your Head (String Version)
- Jennifer Haben / Lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
- Chris Hermsdörfer / Lead guitar, backing vocals
- Tobi Lodes / Rhythm guitar, backing vocals
- Kai Tschierschky / Drums
Smoothness with a metallic edge has been the stock and trade of pop star turned symphonic metal front woman Jennifer Haben and her fold Beyond The Black since their 2014 inception, and their latest and eponymous LP brings a fresh blend of variety and power to the table