• Beyond the Black - Songs of Love and Death (2015)

    “A spectre is haunting Europe…” No, it’s not called communism. It’s called the new wave of pop metal. Beyond The Black is next in line to deliver a mixture of tired symphonic metal from the beginning of the millennium with a touch of dated pop music from the eighties on the stupidly entitled Songs Of Love And Death. The album title alone makes dated commercial acts like Good Charlotte and HIM look like geniuses. I'm mentioning these bands because their sounds are not a far call from Beyond The Black and the target audience could be the same.

    Beyond The Black seems to be influenced by symphonic metal with a penchant for commercial success. The band tries to include a few folk-inspired melodies to sound like Within Temptation’s “Mother Earth” in “In The Shadows”, rehashes the mixture of pseudo-harsh male vocals and a fragile female performance to recall Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” in “Running To The Edge”, and comes around with pop music with some guitars in the background on “Songs Of Love And Hate”, a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Anette Olzon’s solo album Shine. Sometimes, the band includes all three categories in the same song in a predictable and tame verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure as seen in “Hallelujah”. A few predictable and uninspired piano ballads such as “Love Me Forever” or “Unbroken” interrupt the compositions by numbers with more boredom. Most songs are reduced to lengths around four minutes in order to fit radio play standards. All these elements prove to me that this band is purely a commercial product without soul, and is making an obvious attempt at commercial success rather than artistic authenticity. Another proof is that both the symphonic sounds and the vocals of their debut performance at Wacken actually came from a tape and weren't live. If you are still not convinced, check out the singer's biography. She has already sung in the casting pop band for children called Saphir at the tender age of fourteen.

    The vocals sound in fact like a female parody of Modern Talking or a limited teenage version of Jennifer Rush. The keyboard passages sound less impressive than a Nightwish cover band, and the guitar play sounds about as authentic as gothic pop casting band Nu Pagadi. Rumors say that the band features a bass guitarist, but this instrument is completely inaudible. The drum play is also mostly buried and plays the usual repetitive patterns in the background. It’s hard to tell if this is due to horrid song writing, the lack of overall musical talent, the overproduction, or all of these options combined. The lyrics are also completely dull, and too closely inspired by the bands mentioned in the second paragraph.

    Why is a band like Beyond The Black signed to a big metal label these days? It must be a mixture of an attempt at elevated sales figures among inexperienced children and the fact that sex sells as the label tries to make the singer look cute which is the reason why she alone is featured on the album cover. Don’t get me wrong, I adore many female-fronted metal acts like Edenbridge, Epica, Krypteria, Nightwish, Seraphim, and many more. I think, however, that the wave of female-fronted pop rock bands is generally a short-living trend that repeats itself every fifteen years or so. This fits with the current trend of exchangeable dystopian movies with horrible female lead actresses like “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”. I guess the target audience is quite similar as well. This product here might at least help introduce some young and inexperienced female teenagers to the universe of rock and metal music in a smooth way. If the target audience ends up listening and identifying itself with real rock and metal music at a certain point in the future, these bands might have had some sort of purpose in the end. Until then, all fans of authentic, creative, and organic rock music of any kind should ignore these bands. “Metalheads of the world, unite!”

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