June 18, 2020 Beyond the Black – Hørizøns (Album Review)
German masters of Melodic Heavy Metal, Beyond the Black are back with their brand new album Hørizøns, set for release Friday, June 19th through Napalm Records.
Hørizøns marks the band’s fourth overall LP and second following 2016’s Heart of the Hurricane after Lead Vocalist Jennifer Haben parted ways with the rest of the band. As with Heart of the Hurricane, Haben is backed by Guitarists Chris Hermsdörfer and Tobi Lodes, Kai Tschierschky on drums, while Stefan Herkenhoff handles bass. That in mind, while the pummeling musicianship is nothing to glance past, Hørizøns wastes little time showcasing exactly how talented Haben is. So how strong is the album?
Thirteen songs in total, “Human” starts with an interesting amalgam of acoustic guitar and a quiet Industrial backing. This is before breaking swiftly into a loud bombast for the chorus; these two moods continue to interlope until they combine gracefully for a more classical feel later in the track. A soft piano clears a similar path for “Out of the Ashes” when Haben drops the name of the band as the focus of the track. Listening to the lyrical content a bit more closely, the song may be an album too late, as the new band is already four years strong, and this rehash of a dark time in the band’s history, while clearly extremely difficult, could have best been left in the past.
Moving forward, the mix sounds a little muted in places. For example, the instrumental power of “Misery” is dampened a bit and the vocals sound a bit over-the-top. This is while the song almost breaks open into full-fledged Pop territory, peppered by Metal guitars. Later, “I Won’t Surrender” takes a similar path toward a more mainstream genre, combining piano, strings by Cellist Tina Guo, and other ballad techniques to support the soaring pleas of Haben. These are not exactly new areas for Haben, who began as something of a teenage Pop star, but do represent some pretty wide leaps away from the metallic leanings of the band as a whole.
All these factors in mind, unfortunately the twin guitars rarely break through the ceiling of the production. “Marching On” is a notable example, one which also includes some male lead vocals, presumably either Hermsdörfer or Lodes. Then there is “You’re Not Alone,” which opens with brash, off-kilter violins and more of the Electronic and Industrial vibes, though the resulting sound could almost slip unnoticed into the music of the Baroque period. As with the rest of the album, “You’re Not Alone” is more of a solo vocal odyssey, as the mix seems to dull the effect of the surrounding musicians.
Other bright moments include “Wounded Healer,” a tune that also includes a guest appearance from Elize Ryd, one of the lead vocalists for Swedish stalwarts Amaranthe. The dueling voices add a fresh dimension as the pair take turns singing verses amidst shared choruses. Then there is “Paralyzed,” one of the more infectious tracks with anthemic lead vocals that scrape the sky in tune with the guitars and backing vocals.
Four albums spread across six years is an impressive start to a career, and despite a drastic lineup shift at their midway point, Beyond the Black keep plugging along with their unique blend of Pop vocals mixed with Melodic and Symphonic Metal instrumentation. With their style they create oddly catchy anthems that can still shred their way through some of the Metal landscape. Overall, Hørizøns has enough positive vibes to keep fans engaged, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives it 3 out of 5 stars.