Artist: Beyond the Black
Album: Napalm Records
Beyond the Black first came to our attention when vocalist Jennifer Haben acted as guest vocalist on tour with Kamelot in 2018. Having enjoyed (though never reviewed) their debut album, when we heard that their sophomore effort, Hørizøns, was coming our on June 19th, 2020, via Napalm Records, we were excited to have the chance to check it out.
The album starts off fairly well with a push of energy through straightforward opening title track “Hørizøns.” I will take a moment here to mention that, as a linguist, I truly dislike it when bands stylize albums or songs with letters from other languages. It never takes into account that these letters are pronounced differently and if you were to read the names literally, they would not sound nearly as cool as the band thinks the stylization looks. Now, with that rant out of my system, let’s continue.
The album then takes a rather different turn with the very poppy “Misery,” with a more mainstream sound building up into a very radio-friendly rockin’ chorus. The instrumental parts that come after the choruses are the true heroes of this song, saving it from being written off as a generic radio hit for the mainstream. Fortunately, the darker tone of “Wounded Healer” avoids this, which may come as a surprise to some as it features Elize Ryd of Amaranthe on guest vocals. Admittedly, it feels a bit like a wasted guest slot as if I hadn’t watch the video, I wouldn’t have even realized there was a second singer in the song thanks to the diversity of sound that Haben already posesses. “Some Kind of Monster” feels almost more like a lively hard rock song, though optimally it would have stopped a bit before the 4-minute mark.
“Human” slows things down towards ballad territory but picks up dynamically with a ferocious punch and some very evocative lyrics about how we will all die because we are human. The existentially interesting lyrics combined with the very dramatic dynamic movement make this song one of the immediate highlights, though once again, it goes on about a minute longer than it needs to.
“Golden Pariahs” has an almost industrial tinge to it, upbeat with heavy drums, while “Marching On” is surprisingly led mainly by male vocals, with enough epic blend between the dual vocalists as the song progresses and one of the more impressive guitar solos on the album. However, the cheesiness is undeniable in “You’re Not Alone,” a friend anthem with music that’s a bit over-dramatic for my personal taste; one might argue, however, that this is way more epic than many other “don’t give up, I’m here for you” songs and that could be seen as a plus based on the listener’s personal taste.
We get something much closer to a ballad with “Out of the Ashes,” a survival song with a groovy bassline and a bit of a basic melody that sounds a bit like it’s been done before. It does keep some surprise male vocals to change things up three quarters of the way through, which was a welcome change-up and a missed opportunity for a dramatic pause in an earlier track is redeemed at the end of this one.
“Paralyzed” features a lot of snare drum early on and a bouncy beat and is easy to listen to without being ultimately too memorable. “Coming Home” is a more solid and even song, with a strong melody and tasteful backing instrumentals. “I Won’t Surrender” is unquestionably a ballad and again, a pretty straightforward song about inner strength and not surrendering. The album finishes with “Welcome to My Wasteland,” a very upbeat heavy rock track with groovy bass lines and strong vocals.
One of the biggest takeaways from this band is that I’d really like to see them live, sooner rather than later. The songs have a lot of great bits that feel reserved at times and I’d love to see the band, and Haber in particular, really let loose and get lost in it. What better place to seek that out than a live setting. While a great deal of the album is very creative and passionate, it is slightly plagued by a bit of a same-y song construction throughout and overly long songs that always last at least one chorus too long. As said by the phantom drifting by, to really reach the next level they should experiment more with the transitions to keep the songs fresh and interesting. However, if you’re looking for something upbeat and easy to like to blast over the summer, this album will definitely have an audience. These guys seem like they’re still fine-tuning their sound and need to fine-tune a few things, but Horizons certainly keeps them on our list of bands to keep an eye on.
Rating: 7.5/10, 4 stars
3. Wounded Healer
4. Some Kind of Monster
6. Golden Pariahs
7. Marching On
8. You’re Not Alone
9. Out of the Ashes
11. Coming Home
12. I Won’t Surrender
13. Welcome to My Wasteland