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Beyond the Bridge: The Old Man & the Spirit

The Old Man & the Spirit is the debut release by German progressive metal act Beyond the Bridge. From the title of the CD and the attractive cover art, it would be pretty safe to assume that The Old Man & the Spirit is a concept album, and you would be correct in that assumption. An explanation of the storyline, taken from the bands website: "The album 'The Old Man and the Spirit' deals with the polarity of human sensousness and superhuman awareness. The latter is embodied by the character of the Spirit. She is the personification of all wisdom and awareness that is unachievable to mankind, however, lacks of the ability to feel. Her opponent, the character of the Old Man, is presented as a bon vivant who has lived through all highs and lows of human sensation. Steadied by his old age, he searches for a sense, for a coherence, for the meaning of his life in the maelstrom of transciency. As the story unfolds, the Spirit convinces the Old Man that there is no way for Man to overcome the limits of human perception. They can only be transgressed with the help of the Spirit's wisdom. Aware of human curiosity, the Spirit offers to answer all of the Old Man's questions in exchange for his experiences and feelings. A high price, as they are inseperably connected to the Old Man's memories."

So yes, a grand, majestic storyline to go along with some pretty sweet musical ideas. Though the band have been around since the late 90's, it's taken them quite some time to get to this point, and judging by the impressive sounds on The Old Man & the Spirit, the time was well spent putting this album together. The band is comprised of Herbie Langhans (Vocals), Dilenya Mar (Vocals), Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg (Guitar), Christopher Tarnow ( Keyboards), Dominik Stotzem (Bass), Fabian Maier (Drums), and Simon Oberender (Keyboards/Guitar ). The great thing about Beyond the Bridge is that they don't fall into the Dream Theater or Symphony X clone trap, which we see too many progressive metal bands slip into these days. Instead, the band goes for a much more symphonic and dramatic slant, somewhat similar to fellow German band Vanden Plas. The dual vocals of Langhans & Mar are quite good, and it's interesting to hear the male/female thing going on material of this nature. Many of the tunes here are semi-epic in both scope and length, so expect plenty of sweeping orchestrations and extended instrumental passages, not to mention the layers of vocals that help tell the intricate story. Lots of exciting guitar & keyboard solos to be found throughout, especially on "Triumph Of Irreality", "The Apparition", and "The Primal Demand". Though the album never gets too heavy, a track like "Doorway To Salvation" does have some serious crunch to it, as well as Mar's angelic vocals, and "The Struggle" uses some modern metal elements to give it some oomph, including a venemous vocal from Langhans. The album closer "All a Man Can Do" is a gorgeous epic driven by fantastic vocals from both singers and sweeping orchestral arrangements, quite lovely and a fitting finale here.

Overall The Old Man & the Spirit is a fine debut from Beyond the Bridge. I'm not quite sold on the production, which at times I felt could have been crisper, especially in the guitar department, which seems a tad muddy, but that's a mild criticism. With a label like Frontiers behind them, Beyond the Bridge should make some waves with this concept piece, and I'm sure anyone into melodic & symphonic progressive metal will want to check into this one.

Track Listing
01.The Call 06:34
02.The Apparition 08:02
03.Triumph Of Irreality 06:11
04.The Spring Of It All 01:48
05.A World Of Wonders 05:02
06.The Primal Demand 02:07
07.Doorway To Salvation 07:53
08.The Struggle 05:22
09.The Difference Is Human 07:55
10.Where The Earth And Sky Meet 06:57
11.All A Man Can Do 09:33

Added: June 30th 2012
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 5302
Language: english

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Beyond the Bridge: The Old Man & the Spirit
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-30 16:15:57
My Score:

Yes, it's a concept album. And no, I have no idea what it is about. At this point of time, I am more interested in the music more so than the lyrics.

Beyond The Bridge is the brainchild of guitarist Peter Degenfeld and keyboardist Christopher Tarnow and features two vocalists: one female and one male. I am only familiar with the male singer, Herbie Langhans who I previously heard on Sinbreed's debut album. He is also by far my favourite singer on this disc. He adopts a vocal style akin to that of Russell Allen circa The Odyssey, delivering the lyrics in a gritty and powerful manner. His subtle German accent lends his singing added depth and character, and his inflection is perfect. At times, he adopts more of an operatic style and he balances the aggression with cleaner tones. Also, this being a concept album, it probably makes it easier to convey the moods intended to portray. The female vocalist Dilenya Mar is awesome. She carefully avoids the pitfalls of being the 'angelic' voice on the disc; rather than singing 'sweet' verses to contrast the heavier sections, she has been given more of a 'free role' on the album. We hear her duelling fiercely with the male vocals, handling soft, whispered spoken passages, and also delivering a gripping tune on the pop ballad "World of Wonders" which concludes with a fantastic electric solo.

In terms of songwriting, the 67-minute album is divided into 11 tracks, but because this is a concept album, not each track is actually a song. Much like Virgin Steele's The House of Atreus: Act II, some of the songs last less than two minutes and their purpose is to glue the themes and storyline. Often times, the epic/pivotal pieces are preceded by shorter cuts, like the one-minute piece "The Spring of It All" and the two-minute piece "The Primal Demand." The former is a piano ballad while the latter merely establishes atmosphere before picking up a shredding gtr crescendo that segues into the dark "Doorway to Salvation" underscored by ominous keyboards, corrosive riffing, aggressive male vocals complemented by beautiful female singing, which is eerily reminiscent of something Anneke van Giersbergen would sing during mid-period The Gathering. The instrumentation on the album achieves a staggering effect. Whenever a guitar solo kicks in, you know the keyboard solo is going to be next. Both solos are lightning fast, and they always merge tightly together, implying a sense of compositional cohesiveness. While this may seem predictable, because the unison leads are used sparingly, the effect is glorious.

Although the album starts really heavy with the super crunchy "The Call" and riff-centred "The Apparition," it slowly shifts into midtempo territory in order to accommodate the concept. On the heavier songs, the way the guitar work blends with the deft synth elements brings to mind Symphony X's [[ASIN:B00004YR6K V: The New Mythology Suite]] crossed with later-day Kamelot thanks to the inclusion of classical themes. However, Beyond The Bridge's music is neither as fast-faced and chock full of double bass drums as that of Kamelot nor as progressive as that of Symphony X. Rather, they blend the more 'listenable' sides of bands like Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus adding to these the storytelling twist of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After the first two tracks, apart from the shredding instrumental piece "Triumph of Irreality," the album tones things down in favour of more melodic progressions, lots of string and piano work, and the obvious call-and-response vocal styles needed on such albums. The aptly titled "The Struggle" brings forth plenty of counterpoint vocals, delivered in a rapid-fire manner by the male singer and eventually wrapped up with a bizarre finish. "Where the Earth and Sky Meet" features a crystal clear guitar solo that would make Eric Johnson proud: the note choice and phrasing as well as the articulation of the emotion is sublime.

This a strong debut that should appeal to fans of melodic progressive metal that also borders on concept-driven symphonic power metal (without the cheese factor). If you enjoy Vanden Plas, the second Myrath disc, Rage circa Ghosts, Pantommind as well as the aforementioned bands, this disc is for you.

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