ALBUM REVIEW: Wilkes-Barre’s Beyond Fallen revives classic metal with ‘As the Spires Fall’
While based in Wilkes-Barre, many countries outside of the United States have been integral to the history of metal band Beyond Fallen. Their first demo EP received distribution in Europe, and their second full-length album, “Mindfire,” came out through Melissa Records in the Netherlands in 2007. Later that year, they flew to Germany to perform at the Headbanger’s Open Air Festival and the Ballroom Hamburg, an experience that left an impression on these hard-working musicians that resonates to this day.
Now, a decade later, their fourth full-length album, “As the Spires Fall,” was released today through German label Underground Power Records. At first listen, however, it sounds as if it was a remastered recording from decades ago, capturing a classic heavy metal sound with elements of power, thrash, and speed metal that fit perfectly into what largely feels like a concept record.
Before you even hear the music, the sci-fi album artwork sets the stage with demonic humanoid warriors marching off to war while their spaceships hover and land on Earth. A church collapses in the background as our civilization crumbles along with it, as described in the first few tracks.
After the instrumental introduction “The Arrival,” “Return of the Sky Gods” and “As the Spires Fall” thrust headbangers right into this epic war, describing these conquerors and the battle that follows with such detail that the story is already unfolding in their minds. Machine gun drums and speeding guitar riffs feel like the sensory overload of bullets and bombs in combat with the crystal clear vocals of Joseph Karavis guide listeners through. As the album goes on, his range becomes increasingly impressive, harkening back to the glory days of Dio, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Slayer, Queensrÿche, Iced Earth, and Metal Church in the larger-than-life scope and storytelling with Judas Priest and King Diamond entering the fray.
“Bodybreaker” starts slow and builds into a brutal attack as “Destroying Reality” immediately sticks in your head with a chugging pace. “Seven Scorpions” conjures foreboding Egyptian magic, while “The Lifeless Grin” is less escapism and more reality for those sick of the 9-to-5 grind, fearing greedy corporate masters more than threats from the stars. “The Great Distance” feels like the end of the blockbuster film that’s played in your mind throughout the album, with a slower pace that contemplates an uncertain future and sounds more personal, recalling classic Ozzy Osbourne while maintaining the breadth of the larger narrative.
Those looking for badass singles with fist-pumping sing-a-long choruses are rewarded in the end with “Razor Wire Halo” and “Hatecrown,” both longtime set staples that close the album with the kind of ruthless aggression that can only be excised in the pit, which any great metal album should drive you to. This is a band that sounds great blasting through your speakers, but even better when you can feel the sweat in person.
Local fans will have that opportunity tonight at the Irish Wolf Pub in downtown Scranton with special guests Suicide Conspiracy, Traverse the Abyss, and Assayer, so while you can purchase the album on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, CD Baby, and other online retailers, it’s best to pick it up after a crazy night of experiencing the kind of music you simply don’t hear much anymore. German fans and others around the world aren’t as lucky to have that right in their backyard.
Listen to Karavis talk about the making of “As the Spires Fall” in Episode 6 of the recently relaunched NEPA Scene Podcast: