The Denmark-based Beyond Twilight present their third release, For the Love of Art and the Making, a single, multifaceted piece of 38 minutes that brims with musical ideas. While fresh and different in format, FTLOAATM is in keeping with the Progressive Metal band's previous releases insofar as it exhibits an artful balance of the powerful, the delicate, the intellectual, the bombastic, the technically straining, and the beautifully simple. Beyond Twilight test the progressive sensibilities of their audience, this time around, with an assembly of 43 interrelated musical vignettes crafted with precision and a clever flair.
For the Love of Art and the Making would easily lend itself to a stage musical, if someone were inventive enough to adapt it. The music already possesses enough theatricality to invoke all sorts of mental imagery in the listener. In fact, to the extent that one appreciates the music's idiomatic quality, it ironically leaves one wanting, in the absence of a stage production. In one sense, then, the music outdoes itself; in another, the fact that there is no performance art for which the album would make fine program music gives it a kind of incompleteness, like a floating spirit in need of a body to fulfill its purpose.
Beyond Twilight did not attempt to recycle Section X (Nightmare Records), their outstanding 2005 release, which consisted of songs in a more conventional, but nonetheless creative format. The music on FTLOAATM will do best with a listener who can stretch out and let his capacity for extrinsic metaphors flow. Because of the esoteric format of the 43-part suite, the music demands the kind of listener who can re-acclimate himself to the frequent and sometimes drastic changes in theme and style. If there's a feel you don't like, wait a minute. All of the parts, though, have a personality that can grow on you.
Fans of Beyond Twilight's previous releases will certainly appreciate the heavy sections and the technically challenging performances. Bjorn Jansson (Tears of Anger) does a fine job on vocals, although he is tamer than his powerful predecessor, Kelly "Sundown" Carpenter, who was dismissed in early 2006. More impressive on vocals are the returning Michael Eriksen and Truls Haugen (both from Circus Maximus), who deliver some very emotive and memorable vocal parts.
Keyboardist/composer Finn Zierler is quite diverse in his application of the most sonic of keyboard parts, utilizing a little of everything along the way, from Classical piano motifs to synth Funk riffs. Anders Exo Kragh (fantastic lead guitar), Jacob Hansen (rhythm guitar), Anders Devillian Lindgren (bass), and Tomas Freden (drums) give stellar performances throughout — well-executed and intense.
The only criticism to offer with regard to production is that the high-end "click" on the (triggered?) bass drums, presumably added to give definition, has too much of an electronic sound and is too prominent in the mix, making it a distraction. By way of comparison, those familiar with Circus Maximus can judge for themselves, as the same characteristic (and criticism) is perceived on The 1st Chapter (2005, Sensory Records). FTLOAATM is otherwise masterfully produced and mixed. Credit goes to Tommy Hansen, who, by the way, produced both Beyond Twilight and Circus Maximus.
Lyrics are minimal, but according to Finn Zierler, the lyrics and music both play important roles in the finer points of the composition. Finn explains in the liner notes that the 43 sections, plus 3 hidden sections, are pieces of a puzzle, and that playing them in different sequences reveals various pictures. When this theory is tested, one finds that the sections are connected loosely enough to allow some variance in the order they are played; however, the sections don't specifically have segues that lend themselves to strong continuity from one section to multiple others. Rather, the touted fexibility is apparently due to the disparate nature of the various pieces. Most listeners will find the composition to be at its best when the pieces are played in the natural order of the CD.
Finn also indulges in thematic and other various musical transformations and reprises, such as backward-composing a prior line and playing it in a normal, forward fashion, while playing another line also in reverse, but in the manner of an electronically reversed recording.
Beyond Twilight should be highly commended and admired for the personality they brought to For the Love of Art and the Making. The 38-minute composition is an entertaining exercise in musical multiformity. Perhaps of greatest interest to most Metal fans: the artists did not sacrifice rhythmic feel, Heavy Metalness ... or Metal heaviness ... for the sake of artsy pretentiousness. The album doesn't have the length or lyrical content to be a full-blown Rock Opera, but if you want a safe bet on the right men for such a job, put your money on Zierler and company.
Interview with Finn Zierler
Band Web site: www.BeyondTwilight.dk
Label Web site: www.NightmareRecords.com