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Beyond The Black – The Exchange, Bristol 29.10.2019

There’s nothing more fun to me than seeing a band that should (and hopefully will be) huge doing their first UK headline gig in a venue as intimate and fun as The Exchange in Bristol. They’ve been around for a while and after a few supporting stints in this country (in between their successful headling tours around Europe) they’ve graduated to the big leagues.

But before I get to the main band, what about the support? Well that comes from Mister Misery, a band whose debut album I reviewed in the summer and absolutely loved, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that they were supporting tonight!

And they didn’t disappoint. Even though they battled with some slightly underwhelming sound problems at the start of their set, they provided a tight and entertaining support slot, and while it may have taken the crowd a little while to warm to them, by the second half of their set they were being very much appreciated by the audience. The audience were even singing along by the end of the set, with “Rebels Calling” being a particular highlight.

Then on to the main event – Beyond The Black.

I have a particular affection for this band. A few years ago I didn’t listen to much new music – certainly not new bands, preferring instead to stick with artists that I had grown up listening to. However, in an attempt to broaden my horizons, I had started to buy Metal Hammer as it would come with free CDs, and on one of these was a song by Beyond The Black from the debut album. And I was instantly hooked.

Since then, they have been a regular fixture in my listening library, and I was super excited to get the chance to attend their first UK headline gig. And believe me, it did not disappoint.

Beyond The Black are one of those bands that were just oozing chemistry and excitement from the moment they hit the stage. They look like they are made of five disparate members, but the moment they start to play together, they become this beautiful well-crafted whole that absolutely kicks your ass. With three and a bit albums worth of material to pick from, they started strong and got stronger from there on.

The first three songs were absolutely perfect for an opening trio – whether you’d heard of the band or not. The confident, powerful Metal of “Hysteria”, followed by “When Angels Fall” (both on their current album “Heart Of The Hurricane”) are a great one-two punch, with “Songs Of Love And Death” from their debut album an absolutely perfect follow-up.

And the set list continued from there on in. The advantage of going to a gig like this with a band who do not have a set selection of “hits” that you know they will play is that, as someone who’d listened pretty extensively to all three albums, you never know what’s coming and nothing beats a fun surprise or two!

As the great songs kept on coming, I got to admire the expert musicianship of each of the members of the band. The bassist was like an imposing man-mountain, solid, stoic and incredibly technically gifted, the two guitarists may look like chalk and cheese, but they shared a symmetry of brilliance and were always amazing to watch. The drummer? Well holy crap. I’ve never seen a drummer so excitable, enthusiastic and playing so many drums at once! Truly outstanding.

And that takes to the frontwoman herself – Jennifer Haban. The only original member to still be in the band, and with the voice of an angel and stage presence to command a room fifty times bigger than the one we were in, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Also, she plays a mean piano – and a quick thanks must go to the stage technicians who managed to execute a mid-song placement of a stage piano, and remove it again mid-song three songs later!

If you can’t tell from my gushing, this was an absolute belter of a gig, an evening that was totally worth the drive (on a schoolnight no less), and one that I would happily repeat. I suspect that Beyond The Black will soon graduate to playing bigger venues in the UK, so I would urge you to go and see them if you get the chance. Their songs are brilliant, their stage presence is awesome and the atmosphere was truly breathtaking.

Review - Michael Braunton

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