Normally, self-titled albums are the debut ones for the bands, and it makes sense, as this title is all about “Hey! That’s us!”. Beyond the Black went the other way: having tried themselves in various directions from symphonic metal to electronic pop-rock within their previous four albums they’ve finally come up with the finest mixture of everything they`ve done, spiced up with a decent folk touch and their famous acoustic tunes. And here’s when they come up and say: “Hey! That’s us! Finally”.
Basically, the first three songs are the album in a nutshell. The first is a single, already familiar to the audience via music video –“Is There Anybody Out There”, a mid-tempo yet energetic heavy riffed modern metal piece with a memorable melody, a couple of great hooks, and a robotic vocalise. Then goes “Reincarnation”, which delivers us right into some fantasy battle with supernatural and uplifting lyrics, aggressive guitars, and folk instruments. The ability to interlace acoustic arrangements with metal ones is one of the strongest band’s sides, period. And the third song “Free Me” reminds us about it with its acoustic fingerpicking that grows into a swirling heavy piece filled with piercing emotions and beast roars that turn into a guitar solo.
The whole album is made in quite a measured tempo, besides, probably, “Winter Is Coming” – the fastest song on the album. “Into The Light” at first glance sounded like a fat reference to the previous Beyond The Black album – “Horizons” – filled with electronic sound, but no, it was just a small intro…and it was extremely sad, ’cause maybe some more electronic arrangements here would’ve saved a song from sounding like a filler for the album. Especially on contrary with the soulful “Wide Awake”, which is another acoustic+metal song, and it really, at first, gives off those precious vibes of sitting with the guitar next to the fire in the forest, and ends up as the last scene movie soundtrack, where the hero has defeated all the monsters within himself.
“Dancing In The Dark” sounds like an amazing song for the Eurovision Song Contest in the best possible meaning. It’s groovy, it’s catchy, with drums creating the vibe of some solemn ritual. The song developed slowly, teasing and leaving you in the “let me headbang, finally” sort of anticipation. “Raise Your Head” sounds like a weaker version of the previous “Dancing In The Dark”, and in “Not In Our Name” we finally hear some harsh male voices singing lines, not just growling in the background.
One of the best songs on the album concludes the whole ride, and it’s “I Remember Dying”, and it’s incredible. This song could easily put Beyond The Black in the same line with such bands as Heilung and Wardruna. This, almost acapella, mysterious choir, this folk polyphony of ethereal sounds and voices, this majestic duduk – as if all that wasn’t precious enough, but it all becomes framed in metal in the end. The repeated “…Do you remember…” line produces some hypnotic effect, and here, in the conclusion of my review I’d like to highlight the vocals of the band’s frontwoman Jennifer Haben, whose voice in all songs was outstanding, yet in “I Remember Dying” she’s just outsung herself.
To sum up, this album is an incredible modern metal-acoustic-folk explosive and energetic mixture of super-high quality. Meanwhile, songs that were, let’s say, pure modern metal, without any folk or acoustic tunes, sounded weaker, as if something was already, missing in them. I guess it just shows, again, how good Beyond The Black are at acoustic music, and how playing folk stuff tremendously fits them, so it already feels like their untaken part.