BEYOND THE BRIDGE – THE OLD MAN AND THE SPIRIT

Out now on Frontiers Records

Progressive Metal is something of a rarity on Frontiers.  Normally you see them throwing big bucks (perhaps) at established names like Vanden Plas but seldom do you see them giving new prog metal bands a shot.  Beyond The Bridge is the exception to this trend though.  A 7 piece band hailing from Germany, “The Old Man And The Spirit” has been in the works for close to 2008 according to the promo sheet and certainly is well crafted yet is not without its pitfalls.

Musically its hard to avoid Dream Theater in prog metal and Beyond The Bridge share a number of musical traits with the American genre leaders.  However, vocalist Herbie Langhans is far less grating on the ears than LaBrie and possesses a Lande’ esque tonality, his vocals are paired with the female leads of Dilenya Mar, not the most accomplished female vocalist out there but at least she has an original quality rather than aping the likes of Sharon den Adel.

Lead guitarist Peter Degenfeld is not a million miles away from Mr Petrucci with first rate technical ability, yet he also shares Mr Petrucci’s less than exciting guitar tone.

Fabian Maier handles the drums with equal apblomb and knows when to lay off the flash and groove so extra marks here.

Highlights come in the guise of opener “The Call” which is a strong first track, good melodies and nice chord progressions. “The Apparition” follows and is a very enjoyable 8 minute ride, dark with good melodies and nice musical interludes.  “Doorway To Salvation” is a high energy up-tempo number with some 7 string riffery and reminds a little of Adagio at the start before progressing through some different areas.

All is not great though, the poppier textures of “World Of Wonders” is just a little too twee, clichéd and lacking in staying power.  Likewise “The Struggle”  features some quite dreadful vocals, supposedly two sides of a personality in conflict one suspects, but its effect to these ears is somewhat annoying, and “Where The Earth & Sky Meet” is a slushy power ballad, the likes of which Dream Theater gave up on after Another Day.

Indeed it’s the second half of the album is where my interest seriously started to wane, as highlighted by the tracks in previous paragraph.  Its here you feel the band got a little too bogged down in the story telling and, well, went a little too far up their own arses for their own good.  You can see where the albums 3 year creation process went, ultimately the album comes across as overly long, overly intricate (and not in a good way for a prog metal release) and ultimately sees it loose marks.

There is no denying that Beyond The Bridge do have the tools to be able to make a great album, this is halfway towards that, and whilst the weaker moments are a little too frequent when its good, its very good.  Overall, one to watch and hopefully Frontiers will give the band time to grow and not look for an overnight success.

Rating – 75%

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