|Musical Style: Modern Metal||Produced By: Joe Viers|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 45:41|
Modern metal albums are like opinions: Every metal fan has one (or three or four), either as part of their music collection or want and trade list. My experience with the genre has not been the most productive in that I tend to eschew many of its more obvious trappings, such as the overreliance on screamed vocals, underutilization of guitar solos and what often amounts a heavy handed or abrasive feel. Call me the exception and not the norm, but a good percentage of so-called modern bands end up coming across, well, modern a fault- at least to my ears anyway.
So I am sure you can understand my skepticism when several months ago I was contacted by Sins Of A Nation, a modern metal group listing influences as far ranging as Metallica, Godsmack, Alice In Chains, Dio, Avenged Sevenfold, Iron Maiden and Disturbed (from its Facebook page). Despite any doubts I was blown away in that Sins Of A Nation actually reflects a heavy traditional metal vibe (the group can solo with the best of them in addition to featuring the Dickinson-like vocals of former Septer front man Dane McCartney) while also mixing in some modern elements (the use of screamed vocals but not to the point of overdoing it). Needless to say, I gave SOAN a glowing review.
But by reviewing a modern metal band I was also opening a potential can of worms: If I review one then I have to review them all (or at least those seeking a review), right? So I decided it would be best to set some guideline as it pertains to the matter:
1. Any modern metal band that is to be reviewed must be every bit as much “old school” (in terms of a metal and hard rock influence) as it is modern. Think in terms of the example set by SOAN.
2. The emphasis must be on clean vocals as opposed to those that are screamed. Yes, screaming is fine, but it must not be the centerpiece of the music but instead accents while allowing the clean vocals to play the leading role. Again, SOAN comes to mind in terms of how this should be done.
3. Lead guitar, obviously, must be a priority. No “artsier” than thou aversion to soloing, OK? Once more, SOAN sets the standard here.
This leads us to Beyond The Rage, the latest modern metal band to contact Angelic Warlord about a review (of its 2012 full length debut Burn Me Away). Actually, labeling Beyond The Rage modern metal might be somewhat one-dimensional. Yes, the group features many modern elements in its music - and by that I am referring to occasional screamed vocals and some modern guitar tones - but also stay true to the three above referenced guidelines in no uncertain terms. In other words, Beyond The Rage brings many of the qualities that fans of old school metal and hard rock will be certain to appreciate!
It starts with vocalist Bill Yarbrough, who, similar to Dane McCartney, stays mostly in smooth sounding territory (albeit without the Dickinson influence) but when a moment calls for it can descend into a low-key growl or snarl. I particularly enjoy his varied style which finds him taking a powerful approach on the albums more aggressive material while adding an emotional touch to that heading in the calmer direction.
Guitar soloing you will find in abundance as well. Credit Bret Sanor, whose lead guitar work I can see being embraced by fans of just about any form of metal (classic/traditional, melodic, power, etc). Similar to Yarbrough his method varies, ranging from blistering and fast paced leads to those with a distorted feel to a slower style giving rise to a blues influence.
But what sets Beyond The Rage apart is the amount of melody it imbues its material. Yes, the group can get as heavy as anyone but also prove surprisingly listenable at the same time. To understand my point keep in mind that prior to beginning work on the review I listened to samples of several modern metal bands and found them to have all the charm of an angry nail scratch over a brittle chalkboard. Not so with Beyond The Rage, whose melody driven approach proves a refreshing change of pace.
Consider “Break”, “Take This Life” and “Sorry Again”, three heavy hitting slugfests that also lend themselves to potential radio play as a result of their catchy chorus hooks. Upholding the melody driven emphasis while evening things out are “Beyond The Rage”, highlighting some fast to slower tempo changes, and “Burn Me Away”, a semi-ballad with a moody feel. Proving every bit as engaging is the haunting six minute ballad “Darkest Day”. These represent the albums six best.
Falling within the good to very good categories are “My Tribulation” (one of the albums more aggressive with plenty of screamed vocals) and “Stranger” (a plodder playing up some heavy blues elements). You will also find two quality acoustic tracks in “When Will You See” and “Was It The Blood”. The only song not to do it for me is “Monster”, and that is as a result of it coming across a bit too modern for its own good.
While SOAN could be categorized as a mainstream band with a believing member in McCartney, Beyond The Rage falls under the Christian band heading. Statements of faith are made on “Burn Me Away” - I know You give me all I need/This world is a blade and it will cut me/But I’m not afraid to bleed/ I want to see Your face/I want to feel you Lord/I want to see Your grace and “Take This Life”: I’ve been running all my life/But now I’m finally free/I was blinded by the world/But now I can see/So take this life from me.
“My Tribulation” is written from the standpoint of an individual who laments over getting “left behind” - My wicked ways have kept me here/My tribulation/I’m left behind/Seven years of hell/No one to turn to/Nowhere to go/I don’t belong here is all I known – and “When Will You See” a worshipful mentality: When will you see that its me that changes your life/When will you see that it is me transforming your lies/When will you’re living a lie/When will you see my Truth will never die.
If my review inspired you to pick up the SOAN CD - and you liked what you heard - then by all means also get Burn Me Away in that Beyond The Rage delivers a similar musical direction and quality. Metal and hard rock fans looking to try something new will not be disappointed either. My overall feeling is that the band made Burn Me Away work due to, again, focusing on melody in terms of songwriting while also getting the job done in the studio (production in just the right amount that avoids the pitfall of too much polish).
Track By Track
“Break” starts to a drum solo (sort of like “Out Of The Darkness” by Bloodgood) prior to a growled voice and incisive guitar taking over. The song proves a heavy set cruncher the rest of the way, driven by an aggressive mindset but also featuring some catchy chorus hooks with the potential for radio play. Blistering guitar leads round things out.
“Beyond The Rage” smoothes things and takes the more relaxed heading, at least for its verses in which a quietly played guitar leads the way. Contrastingly, momentum picks up as a pointed rhythm guitar steps forward and leads the way to the songs focuses chorus. Another run of riveting lead guitar, this time distorted and played with a great deal of feeling.
“Burn Me Away” almost comes across in the form of a semi-ballad. The song starts at a near crawl – gloomy and tranquil in capacity – only to break out at once in an explosion of angst upon obtaining its heavy hitting chorus (aggressively done but not overbearing in the process). Yarbrough takes a low-key approach in terms of his delivery.
The guitar riffs at the start to “Take This Life” reflect a power metal feel. The song proves angry and forceful upon moving on to its verses - giving rise to some scathing undertones - only to evenly smooth out for a catchy chorus upholding the more striking qualities. Things taper ever further for an instrumental section carried by a slowly played solo with a pulsating bass line in the backdrop.
“Darkest Day”, the albums longest at just under six minutes, represents the albums lone ballad. Plodding, emotional and moody, the song slowly drifts its lengthy to rhythm guitar in just the right amount while also allowing for complementary quietly played guitar and Yarborough’s moving vocal presence. A standout melody proves the glue holding everything together.
A return to up-tempo territory can be found in “My Tribulation”. The song proves short but cutting, giving rise to an ascendant low-end along with some more aggressive torrents in which an assertive guitar plays a predominant role. The emotional overtones here can be found in some blood curdling screams throughout.
“Monsters” is the only song here in which I struggle. No, far from bad, but the song comes across a bit too formula for my taste. And by that I am referring to its overriding modern qualities, as can be found in what amounts watered down guitar tones. I can see others embracing it, although I tend to pass.
“Stranger” is much better. The song gets off to a hulking start, with staggering guitar riffs in full forces before things calm to a more peaceful heading for its stiller verses. Initiative is not regained until a vibrant guitar kicks in to back what amounts a staunchly done chorus. An almost bluesy feel is projected as a result.
“Sorry Again” finds Beyond The Rage at its best. What we have here is a monster track, sustained by a metal edge guitar base and decisive tempo but put over the top by its intricate chorus (memorable but hitting like a ton of bricks at the same time). The band locks into such a perfectly flowing groove - “Sorry Again” is nothing less than aural perfection - you will find yourself returning time and again.
Closing things are two acoustic pieces, with the first, “When Will You See”, bringing a slight Latin flair, and second, “Was It The Blood”, interwoven with a violin (and hinting at Kansas as a result).
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Break” (3:38), “Beyond The Rage” (3:26), “Burn Me Away” (3:50), “Take This Life” (5:09), “Darkest Day” (5:50), “My Tribulation” (3:32), “Monsters” (4:39), “Stranger” (3:44), “Sorry Again” (4:36), “When Will You See” (3:04), “Was It The Blood” (3:41)
Bill Yarbrough - Lead Vocals
Bret Sanor - Guitars
Bob Pickens - Bass
Randy Hoover - Drums