German symphonic metal unit BEYOND THE BLACK have been on quite a streak these past few years, experimenting with their sound but never drastically changing it. The collective around vocalist Jennifer Haben have released their fifth studio album, eponymously titled “Beyond the Black,” on January 13th, 2023, via Nuclear Blast.
Maybe it’s a case of familiarity that ultimately breeds contempt, but the excitement I once felt for this band (and I have been following them since their debut in 2015), unfortunately, has gradually diminished because I feel like their music has become a bit too linear. Taken individually, the songs that they have penned over the years range from good to great with earworm-type choruses, chunky guitar riffs, big melodic hooks, and solid deliveries across the board. This aspect has helped the band establish themselves as a dependable machine when it comes to singalong anthems. The same goes for the majority of tracks on “Beyond the Black.” Despite the fact that the only singles that caught my attention during the pre-release promo period were “Winter is Coming” because of the ominous melody in the chorus and “Dancing in the Dark” because of the uplifting feel of the lyrics, the full album does boast some pleasant surprises besides the aforementioned singles.
Undoubtedly, the strength of the band lies mostly with vocalist Jennifer Haben, as it is her slick and powerful voice that gave BEYOND THE BLACK its signature sound. Her vocal performance on this new album is nothing short of impressive, showing how much she has grown as a singer and how much more confidence she has in herself and her vocal abilities. Either she’s belting on the anthemic “Raise Your Head,” delivering a catchy chorus, as in galloping single “Reincarnation,” or singing softly on emotional power ballad “Wide Awake,” she carries this album with grace and poise. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the band isn’t doing a good job on their respective instruments, but that she stands out the most.
Speaking of the instrumental side, the album has a bombastic feel thanks to Kai Tschierschky‘s big drum sound, while the melodies feel well-defined without being overly poppy, as was the case with “Horizons.” Instead, they have opted for a subtle folky vibe, as employed on excellent single “Free Me” and on punchier “Not in Our Name.” On the same note, moody closer “I Remember Dying” has a certain Celtic vibe going for it, coupled with a darker ambiance and choirs that make it a standout track. The use of acoustic guitar on select tracks does help with the diversity factor and makes the listening experience more enjoyable. Elsewhere, the dual guitar work from Chris Hermsdörfer and Tobi Lodes delivers both some heaviness as well as some nice melodies, depending on what the song needs. Take, for instance, the intro riff to “Into the Light,” the main melody of opener “Is There Anybody Out there?” or the guitar solo in “Winter is Coming” as some of the album’s best guitar-related moments.
All-in-all, for a self-titled release, this album feels like a well-rounded affair that sees BEYOND THE BLACK delivering more of the symphonic/melodic metal that they do so well. “Beyond the Black” is a focused and mature release that can proudly serve as a statement of intent as well as a calling card for what the band is nowadays, bearing all their hallmarks through and through. Their tried-and-tested formula for writing big, anthemic numbers is still applied here with maximum results.
Written by Andrea Crow
- Is There Anybody Out There?
- Free Me
- Winter Is Coming
- Into The Light
- Wide Awake
- Dancing in The Dark
- Raise Your Head
- Not in Our Name
- I Remember Dying
Jennifer Haben – vocals
Chris Hermsdörfer – guitar, backing vocals
Tobi Lodes – guitar, backing vocals
Kai Tschierschky – drums