When an already established band decides to release a self-titled album, it feels like a statement. In the case of Beyond The Black’s fifth full-length, the German symphonic metal stars are definitively telling us: this is who we are now. Exploring the folk-metal aspects of their sound far more on the stomping Reincarnation and album standout Dancing In The Dark – which incorporates what sounds like throat singing and an urgent, percussive heartbeat – they’ve also stripped away some of the subgenre’s OTT trappings, focusing more on punchy melodies.
And at just 10 tracks, Beyond The Black is markedly shorter than the band’s previous albums, and filler-free. Opener Is There Anybody Out There? is a straightforward metal track that nevertheless grabs you with its immediacy and vividly evokes a desolate landscape with its lyrics; Winter Is Coming is guitar-heavy yet cinematic, and Raise Your Head is a marching, rousing call for rebellion.
What’s clear about Beyond The Black is that they’re storytellers, and the relative simplicity of their compositions allows the tales they weave to really come through. That’s not to say that this is symphonic metal-by-numbers. They cherry pick elements and use them minimally, for maximum effect, like the choirs on gorgeous, lovelorn power ballad Free Me and closer I Remember Dying. Sounding more like a gospel choir than a symphony chorus, they create a warm, deep resonance around singer Jennifer Haben’s powerful voice, which is passionate but refined rather than all about soaring highs or vocal acrobatics. On that opening track and Not In Our Name, she experiments with using her voice like an instrument to create unusual vocal hooks that get stuck in your brain. Many of the melodies on Beyond The Black will stay with you – a sign that the band are now truly in their groove.