Beyond The Bridge - 'The Old Man & The Spirit' (Frontiers) 5/5
So first up we have this, the debut album from Frankfurt outfit Beyond The Bridge. Now the germ of this project first formed apparently some 13 years ago as a high school band under the name Fallout. They were regulars on the local circuit for a couple of years, then as is the way of many school bands, adult life and university called and the band fell apart. However guitarist Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg had a plan, a 'meisterwerk' of a vast concept opus he had been working on with his old friend and keyboardist Christopher Tarnow. So by late 2005 with university nearly finished Peter decided it was time to get the band back together. With some old Fallout personnel returning and some new faces joining in a new band slowly came together under the name Beyond The Bridge and work on the album 'The Old Man & The Spirit' started.
Now in 2012 after much hard work, fitting in around other musical 'jobs' (all members of this band are professional musicians - playing sessions or working in other outfits), the album is out, and bloody hell, its a cracker.
The Old Man & The Spirit is a work that manages to sit perfectly between the worlds of classic heavy metal and old school prog rock. The concept here is a simple, yet engaging tale of an old man facing death and the dilemmas and memories that are running through his mind. It is a tale told simply, clearly yet with purpose and passion and delivered with a superbly polished and meaningful musicality tht is so often sadly lacking these days.
From the opening cut of The Call with its almost Diamond Head influenced metal riffage and Eloy style mellower moments, to the closer of All A Man Can Do (a true epic of a shade under ten minutes duration) not only is there not a weak moment on offer, but the whole album is constantly sending shivers up my spine, and in my book that is the mark of something very special indeed.
The musicianship here is flawless, every member of this seven piece outfit plays their role to perfection, but I must give special praise to the two vocalists; Herbie Langhans for delivering the male vocals with power and clarity that reminds me of former Diamond Head vocalist Sean Harris and especially female vocalist Dilenya Mar- whose powerful jazzy almost Janice Joplin style delivery is a breath of fresh air in a time when most metal devas are doing the operatic style stuff.
As this is a concept album, and such a smooth flowing one at that, it would be wrong to single individual tracks out for praise, after all, this is a work that should be listened to in one go to get the full effect. But personal highlights of mine include Doorway To Salvation, a prog-metal classic that sounds like Dream Theater stripped of the 'head up the backside' self indulgence; the shiver inducing prog-tastic The Difference is Human where Dilenya Mars vocals are given a full run out and my personal fave, the almost balladic World Of Wonders which makes you want to wave a lighter in the air without the slightest hint of irony.
The bottom line line is this is a great album, and should become seen in future times as one of the true classics, and it should be in the collection of ever discerning progger and metalhead.
For fans of... Opeth, Martyr, Within Temptation, Royal Hunt, Diamond Head, Darkesis etc....