Beyond The Black - Heart Of The Hurricane

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

So. Yeah. Here’s the thing. Beyond The Black were always so very hit and miss. The only reason anyone ever noticed them is that a few tracks on their debut kicked major ass. Songs Of Love And Death (2015) showcased some incredible talent but never let loose in full that could turn freaking lethal given the proper chance. But then they got big, without ever really deserving it by playing Wacken. Then a year after their debut album they confirmed their stance in basically radio friendly Nightwish influenced symphonic metal dragging towards rock based areas with follow up Lost In Forever (2016). That album, too, had some redeeming qualities, but never soared as high as the first one at times managed to do. Interestingly, the bonus songs released with the special edition of Lost In Forever held the album’s best moments - mainly an awesome duet between Jennifer Haben and seemingly everywhere Herbie Langhans.

Beyond The Black - Heart Of The Hurricane

Now, two years since their sophomore effort, they release Heart Of The Hurricane, with all fresh members, except for Haben. To make sure something hits, they’ve stuffed the album with 13 tracks, but still only nearly hitting the one hour mark. Add to that two bonus tracks which are on all versions of the album, so not very bonus, to hit it just over one hour. Therein lies the problem; it’s quantity over quality, style over substance. Now for sure, Heart Of The Hurricane has its high points, but they are sadly too few and far in between to warrant an entire album. It opens of fresh and strong enough with Hysteria, sounding a bit like In The Shadows from the debut, taken on with another angle and with neat, invigorating hooks, even though it’s nothing groundbreaking it’s the kind of high point that makes you notice the band to begin with. It’s a great opener, one of those immediate hits that Beyond The Black do so well; great hooks, simple yet catchy melodies and Haben is great.

However, after the great opening, the songs are way too many, and some are way too short to even notice. They fly by and once they’ve ended they’re forgotten.Everything follows the same formula, once again, to make sure it’s all uniform and hitting the same tingles. Lyrics about love, longing and this and that do work with Haben’s voice, which is oddly emotive even for the shallow instrumentals accompanying (and if I wasn’t such a sentimental sap I’d call them ridiculous). There is little in the way of memorable riffs, standout solos or, which is a detriment to the album. Some parts here and there do the trick just fine - take the keyboard backdrop in Through The Mirror or the choral layered vocals accompanying Haben that add more big to what’s already pretty big, in tracks like Fairytale Of Doom and Beneath A Blackened Sky - adding some dynamic sense of musical direction that isn’t just your run of the mill mainstream symphonic metal.All in all, Heart Of The Hurricane is just about what one might expect, but with the high points a little too few to make it stand up to the previous effort, which stands as Beyond The Black’s strongest.

 

Standout tracks: Hysteria, Echo From The Past

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Beyond The Black - Million Lightyears

Trillium - Tectonic

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Amanda Somerville is a versatile vocalist, able to fit into a wide variety of styles, as evident from her stints in Avantasia and other groupings with bigger names above hers on the roster. Her own project, titled Amanda Somerville’s Trillium (because we’re not talking about Aina) released their first album in 2011, not exactly to rave reviews, and has been quiet since while Somerville has been plenty busy elsewhere. The follow up, Tectonic, was a long time coming, and finally hit in mid 2018. And it’s supposed to be her time to shine, and show she doesn’t need no Sammet or Kiske to deliver the goods. But what always seems to have been sort of glossed over is the fairly ill fit, musically, that is Somerville and husband Sander Gommans. The man has a background in decidedly more extreme styles of metal, as evident from HDK, whereas Somerville’s very Simone Simmons like vocal style goes much better with a loftier hard rock kind of guitar style, like that of Magnus Karlsson in the surprisingly well fitting Kiske/Somerville project, or the more grandiose symphonic style of Avantasia. 

Trillium - Tectonic

While far from a perfect album, Alloy still did lots of stuff right, including the right personnel in Sascha Paeth, Michael Rodenberg and Simon Oberender. From there, the songwriting style felt like a complementing mix of power metal, symphonic and gothic elements. Not so much on Tectonic, which tries to be grittier and more hard-edged than is needed. Gommans is a fine guitarist - in fact, he’s darn good, and he puts out some hella sweet solos and some high quality riffs strewn like sprinkles on the Trillium icing - but the gritty mindset does Somerville few favors, and Erik van Ittersum’s keyboards should need a higher place in the mix as well as a more prominent role in defining the melodic output, rather than playing background and adding the token symphonic backdrop to Gommans’ guitars. Gommans handles the bass as well on the album, and here there are some liberties taken which certainly do work; tiny little twists and turns in the bass lines that elevate them beyond just following the guitars add a quirky touch that works well.

Problem is, every song here sounds the same. They just plod along doing the same things over and over. Gritty riffs to start off, quickly followed by Somerville entering the state in a high, symphonic flair, but then quickly devolving into the more standardized power metal cruiser that just do things by the numbers. Opening track Time To Shine is likely the best track on here, perhaps because the rest of the album just seems like variations of the same. (Damn, they should have brought back Jørn Lande for a follow up to Scream It.) You’d expect a track named Nocturna to give a dark impression of the night, or Cliché Freak Show to try and stick out in terms of oddity or quirkiness, but nope, they’re more or less the same. Other than that, you’ve got song titles like Stand Up, Hit Me and Fighting Fate; just your every day inoffensive power metal. Not bad, but in no way deserving of more than a single play through, and not the comeback that Trillium would have deserved. Damn, Somerville can do so much better.

 

Standout tracks: Time To Shine, Shards

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Trillium - Shards

Crownless - Confines Of Silence

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Gathering musicians from various death, black and thrash metal bands (the most eye catching being the colorfully named Anal Vomit), Crownless ventures into a wholly different territory. At first glance Crownless would appear to be Italian by judging from the sound, but from a time when Italian metal still had a certain freshness about it. Instead, these guys come from the Peruvian capital, and with their debut album Confines Of Silence, they bring a sweet exploration into the realms of the symphonic. It is a fresh blend of Nightwish and old school Rhapsody, sprinkled with touches of the old Dark Moor and the likes. Folksier notes are brought about in Legions Of Him while dramatic The Unloved go all out on theatrics. The album is ambitious, but not prone to grandstanding, showcasing a stripped down sound less reliant on big choirs and massive symphonic backdrops - though they are present of course - and more on beautiful, soaring melodies and musicianship, which works in Crownless’s favor.

Crownless - Confines Of Silence

Vocalist MariVe Iglesias brings just that right amount of over the top operatics while mostly sticking to a light and airy mid range. The contrasts therein make those Turunen inspired moments all the more powerful, unlike on their 2015 EP Sigillum, where they were used less sparingly and it just didn’t sound that good (though to be fair the production and mix on that EP was miles below what’s shown here). The vocal melodies are catchy and cheesy in the right amount, and Iglesias brings about a majestic sound in the high notes and emotional tinges when needed. The production suffers slightly due to a lack of dynamics; the bass is virtually absent, and only makes slight forays to make itself heard. Guitarist Pedro ‘Nekrogore’ Bernales lays down a few toxic solos and lead guitar parts to battle the keys which also would deserve to sit a little higher in the mix to show off the skills. The battling between the two in tracks like Sailing The Dark is phenomenal, and the song itself a high mark on the album, sounding like something Nightwish could have put out a few years back.

It won’t be revolutionizing symphonic metal by any means, but the album and the band’s style and direction is just so uplifting that it’s hard not be drawn along for the ride. The songs are rather short affairs, most clocking in around the four minute stretch, leaving the total runtime at slightly under 40 minutes, a few of which are filler material that doesn’t reach the standards of the higher points; so Confines Of Silence is by no means the perfect debut album, let alone a perfect album. Perhaps instead of Standing On - the blandest track on here - they could have redone another track from Sigillum (Sailing The Dark is the one they did), but as it is, the tracklist is decent at least, and in most senses outshines the aforementioned EP. It has its slight flaws and misses, but it leaves lots of taste for what else this Peruvian outfit might come up with in the years to come, and it does so while delivering plenty of substance in a relatively short time and with heaps of passion for the trade. And on the whole Confines Of Silence is a highly enjoyable little love affair with a sound that was thought foregone.

 

Standout tracks: Feathers In Flames, Contestatory, Sailing The Dark

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Crownless - Feathers In Flames