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Beyond The Labyrinth - xxV

Beyond The Labyrinth
xxV
by Mark Machlay at 22 March 2022, 6:10 AM

Yet another band that used the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns to get back to creating music rather than playing live, the Dilbeek, Belgium-based BEYOND THE LABYRINTH crafted their fifth full-length album “xxV” and recently released it this past February 15, 2022. The group is a collective of accomplished rock musicians of various backgrounds ranging from mainstream, AOR and progressive rock drawing from influences such as DEEP PURPLE, QUEEN, GENESIS, TOTO, and other 70’s pop and rock to 80’s and 80’s and 90’s metal. The band initially existed mainly as a studio project until about May of 2004, though they did play as a showcase at the Progpower festival in 2001. Spearheaded by mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Geert Fieuw, the band’s first album “Signs” was released in 2005 with plans already laid for another album by October 2005. Sophomore album “Castles in the Sand” was released in 2008 with third album “Chapter III – Stories” following in 2011. The band took a bit of a hiatus starting in 2013 but returned in 2017 with fourth album “The Art of Resilience”.

While three of their four previous albums were released through a label, BEYOND THE LABYRINTH are turning to the help of fans and releasing their work independent again – the first time since their debut album. Band leader Fieuw reached out to all the fans to help fund the project – specifically bypassing the usual “10% commission fee” platforms tack on and fans were rewarded by receiving the album on CD before any press or promo was delivered. While stores and outlets in their native Flanders region, as well as the band’s own Bandcamp page, had the album available as early as December 16th 2021, but the band members initially remained open to any licensing deal until the release date. For the recording, all the band members recorded their individual parts in their own home studio minus the drums that were recorded at GPS (Geeart’s Private Studio). They chose to focus and exercise restraint this go around which resulted in shorter songs but still radiate a classic rock feel with a modern sound that manages to refer to the roots of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

The promo package for “xxV” came with a disclaimer that simple read “WARNING: CONTAINS 80’s Synth Sounds” and while that would surely scare away some reviewers, I revel in the 80’s cheese sound timbres of the decade as long as the music is decent. For the most part, BEYOND THE LABYRINTH won me over with the ASIA and GENESIS style singing and song-writing sensibilities. The only thing that left me a bit wanting was the guitar tone. It sounded a bit dead, a bit AC/DC sounding when I was hoping for a bit more delay, polish and sheen that I expect from a progressive rock/metal guitar sound. I love the positivity and uplifting mood throughout the album – the theme of flying and sky is ever prevalent in songs like “Wings”, “Up There in The Sky”, and “Falcon Eye” – something that is certainly needed in this COVID/Post-COVID world. Of course, there is the obligatory song dedicated to the global pandemic of the time – “Improve, Enhance”. With so many tracks at 14 total, it’s hard to maintain consistent quality but they manage with highlights for me being the jazzy “Nothing Comes for Free”, the 80s synth- drenched “Up There in the Sky”, and the anthemic, bordering on epic “Healer”.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Altitude for Energy
2. Louder Than Thunder
3. Invisible Battle Scars
4. Nothing Comes for Free
5. Dedicated to sir J./Rush Rush Rush
6. Flacon Eye
7. In Camera
8. This Is How We Roll
9. Improve, Enhance
10. Up There in the Sky
11. Rise Above
12. Long Way Home
13. Healer (2021 version) (CD exclusive)
14. Wings (2021 version) (CD exclusive)
Lineup:
Filip Lemmens - Vocals
Geert Fieuw – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Dominic Heynderickx - Bass
Eddy Scheire – Keyboards &Backing Vocals
Michel Lodder - Drums & Loops
Record Label: Independent
     


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