Continuing to shrug off their symphonic metal tag, German five-piece Beyond the Black have stepped further into the realm of Europop based metal on their fourth full-length release, Hørizøns (Napalm Records).
Moving away from the Nightwish-isms of their earlier material, the band are now happy to share the same space occupied by the likes of Delain and Within Temptation. This latest shift in direction is likely to draw criticism from some certain sections of fans, but the truth is that band sound totally at ease here, a situation helped by keeping the same line-up as previous album Heart of the Hurricane (Napalm) which saw the replacement of every member apart from vocalist Jennifer Haben.
Opening track ‘Horizons’ features electronics and chuggy riffs and possess a simple but anthemic chorus, while ‘Misery’ is bouncy ride on the Europop train. ‘Wounded Healer’ features Elize Ryd from Amaranthe on vocals. A darker track with a Celtic flavour, the song sounds great but there isn’t enough contrast in vocal styles to really separate the two singers. The upbeat Within Temptation-ary of ‘Some Kind of Monster’ is followed by the dramatic slow-burn of ‘Human’, the many-faceted cut getting better with every listen.
‘Golden Pariahs’ is an effortless combination of sugary pop rhythms sprinkled with far eastern melodies while the militaristic ‘Marching On’ lets a male vocal lead the way for a time. The powerful ‘You’re Not Alone’ features more pop music electronics, measured orchestration and a superb guitar solo before slowing down with the piano-led balladry of ‘Out of the Ashes’.
‘Paralyzed’ and ‘Coming Home’ are more uptempo affairs, the latter exploding with another surging chorus and a siren that sounds like we’re about to enter The Purge. This is followed by ‘I Won’t Surrender’, an emotively performed ballad featuring American cellist Tina Guo, before closing with the simplistic but catchy ‘Welcome to My Wasteland’.
Featuring some sterling guitar work from Chris Hermsdörfer and Tobi Lodes, bassist Stefan Herkenhoff and drummer Kai Tschierschky keep things moving with purpose, but the undeniable star is Jennifer Haben, her vocal delivery strident and powerful but also vulnerable and restrained when necessary. Melodic, powerful, and memorable, Hørizøns is arguably the band’s most confident and accomplished release to date.
8 / 10