at The O2 Ritz, Manchester, U.K., October 11, 2022

BEYOND THE BLACK (Live at The O2 Ritz, Manchester, U.K., October 11, 2022)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Originally scheduled for January 2022, formidable duo Amaranthe and Beyond the Black finally hit UK soil for the first of two dates here during their joint European tour. The tour, which is the biggest headlining tour for either band to date, has been highly anticipated with a number of sold out shows across Europe – Manchester included. While the city started to fill with Amaranthe shirts, the devastating news of the band’s withdrawal from the bill, due to an illness within the band, was released. Well-wishes poured in as Beyond the Black graduated from co-headliner to solo headliner. Supported by up-and-coming Symphonic Metal band, Ad Infinitum, and ear-splitting Heavy Metal band, Butcher Babies, the crowd were geared up for a night of harmonies and headbanging.

First to take to the stage was Ad Infinitum. Starting as a solo project by vocalist Melissa Bonny, a successful album crowdfunding campaign saw the project expand, leading to a full band lineup and a record deal with Napalm Records. Songs such as “See you in Hell” and “Unstoppable” displayed the band’s ability to produce songs with a catchy hook and memorable chorus, having even the most unfamiliar in the crowd singing along. “I am the Storm” saw Bonny embody a mythological siren, luring the crowd in with her sweet vocals before surprising them with her gruff growls. Ad Infinitum can be translated to mean ‘without end or limit’ and judging from the crowd’s response, there are no ends or limits to what this band can achieve in the future.

Providing a masterclass to what vocal extremes are possible were the Butcher Babies. Fronted by Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, the band delivered 45 minutes of pure, unapologetic mayhem and energy. Crowd favourites “Bottom of the Bottle”, “Sleeping with the Enemy” and “Monster Ball” had the O2 Ritz bouncing. A cover of Saweetie’s song “Best Friend” perfectly summed up the dynamics between the two frontwomen who have shared the stage together for over a decade. The infamous nipple tape may be gone but, with a new album on the way in 2023, it is clear that the Butcher Babies are here to stay.

Having huge shoes to fill and a disappointed sold-out crowd to win over, expectations were high for Beyond the Black and the German Symphonic Metal band certainly did deliver. With three costume changes, two backdrops, two flag-waving hooded figures, a concert bass drum and lightsaber-esque LED light props, you would be forgiven for forgetting that this was not originally a solo headlining show.

Kicking off the set was the riff driven “Is There Anybody Out There?”, the first of four songs from their upcoming album and, with the raucous reception they received, that question was certainly answered with an undeniable and enthusiastic ‘yes!’

With their debut album, Songs of Love and Death winning a German Metal Hammer Award for ‘Best Debut’ and its successor, “Lost in Forever”, entering the German charts at #4, it is no surprise that the respective title tracks were a welcomed addition to the set.

During the performance of the recently released single “Reincarnation”, frontwoman Jennifer Haben, performed a split second, on-stage costume change, but this would not be the only magic that occurred throughout the night as the audience fell under the note perfect singer’s spell.

“Human” from the band’s highest charting album to date, Horizons, saw Haben don a monstrous crown and mask, the perfect contrast to her angelic vocals. An unreleased song was up next, titled “Dancing in the Dark”, providing another welcomed sneak peek into their scheduled January 2023 release. Using a concert bass drum and mallets, Haben conducted a symphony of claps and chants from the audience to accompany the new track, successfully drumming up further anticipation for the new album.

The band’s last UK headline shows were in 2019 on the back of their third studio album Heart of the Hurricane, the title track of which was happily welcomed back by both returning and new fans alike.  The newly released single “Winter is Coming” fit in comfortably alongside older classics “Heaven in Hell” and “Scream for Me”, establishing its deserving place within the band’s impressive musical repertoire.

Lead guitarist Chris Hermsdörfer’s complimentary growls in “When Angels Fall” perfectly demonstrated the band’s dynamic sound, with the undeniably infectious “Shine and Shade” and “In the Shadows” inviting the audience to take over the backing vocal responsibilities.

Recorded as a duet between Haben and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), “Wounded Healer’” was a surprise addition to the encore and ignited hopes of a surprise feature from Ryd but this, understandably, did not happen. Haben expertly tackled the song alone, a poetic representation of the night as a whole and how Beyond the Black were able to succeed in the absence of their touring partners.

The night was brought to a close with the powerful “Hallelujah” which seemed almost comically fitting for a band who turned a day which started with unfortunate news, into a resounding success. Keeping with this theme, the self-titled nature of their upcoming album seems more than appropriate for a band who is establishing themselves as the ones to watch in the Symphonic Metal scene. Beyond the Black – remember the name.

Review By Becks Burgess

Photos By Mick Burgess


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