Dark Moor - Beyond The Sea
Madrid based Dark Moor once again return and bring us their 5th full length studio release but considering the dramatic changes in the line up 2003 this album could be said to be just their 2nd. Of the original staff now only guitarist/songwriter/mastermind Enrik Garcia remians. His former axeman collegue Jose Garrido is out of the picture and a new base player, Daniel Fernandez has replaced Anan Kaddouri so the number of people coming and going here begin to be quite a list.
The split up of the original band members that began right before the recordings of their self titled previous album made Romero "forced" to sing songs written exclusively for Elisa C Martin. With that as background it didn't exactly come as a total surprise that a somewhat different musical approach would be introduced the next time these guys recorded new material.
The very melodic vein is still sounding very strongly here on the new Beyond the Sea release but there are also some major changes and some of the sound of the older Dark Moor with Elisa as lead vocalist has almost totally been ironed out. The strong and fast bombastic symphonic features that formed the bedrock of that era are very much reduced and instead we're facing a more focus on bit simpler and direct facet to the songs. The neo-classic instalments are however a much more showcased feature this time around and and Dark Moor have taken bigger steps towards especially Kamelot with tracks like Before the Duel with it's gallopping riffage and Alea Jacta that's emphasizing that band's more dramatic edge.
Before the Duel also reminds strongly of From Hell on the previous album so the whole thing starts off in quite a fine fashion. But Miracles, Green Eyes and the title track differ quite a bit from the old Dark Moor and can't really be said to be akin to what they usually serve on a plate. These tracks are much more traditional heavy metal oriented and are actually quite far from being of usual Dark Moor high standard. Beyond the Sea is perhaps an exception with a quite memorable chorus worthy of what they've accomplished before but Miracles and Green Eyes (a ballad) I discard as quite boring and meaningless inputs.
Tracks that do run at least somewhere along the older lines are (besides the aforementioned Before the Duel) Houdini's Great Escape, Going On with it's quite Maiden's The Evil That Men Do intro and the epic The Silver Key. On those tracks we recognise some of the speedy and intense power metal with an abundance of the sing-along and "happy metal" feeling Dark Moor used to deliver but unfortunately I don't think it's enough. This vague tapping into the familiar sounds of old saves much of the album but still not to a satisfying grade for a band of this capacity.
The step-aside from the more symphonic sound picture and the other changes doesn't necessarily have to be a bad move since far from every change is a wrong decision but in this case however I feel that such a thing has occurred. While you listen to the album it doesn't sound that bad but when it's over nothing really stands out to make a more profound impression and for every spin the album has taken the more I begin to really miss the Elisa era in the band. With that I don't mean that I miss her as a vocalist but the sound, direction and composition were so much better back then according to this reviewer. I know that such an opinion strongly contradicts what I wrote in my review of the previous album but the remnants of the past were much stronger there and no matter how much I honestly want to I just can't fully approve of the metal terrotories Beyond the Sea is exploring and where Dark Moor is heading today.
Romero is still a good vocalist in my book though and remains to be a worthy replacement with his passionate approach (and even some death metal growling) but the songs themselves lack the little extra you need to release a succesful album. The flow and special touch of symphonic instalments like Hall of the Olden Dreams and Gates of Oblivion are so full of seems to have drifted a bit too far out of reach. Those albums certainly contained a thing Beyond the Sea seriously is very short of- the real stand out killer tracks that remain in your head long after the disc stopped rotating.
I really long for songs in the same class as for instance Maid of Orleans, Silver Lake, A New World and By the Strange Paths of Destiny and so on. Garcia's compositions and also his formidable fast driven harmony solo dueling that used to toally blow me away didn't at all reach those high levels this time and not even a very good production introduces the formula that pushes all the familiar buttons of a great album.
Still being a natural sequel to the Dark Moor release, Beyond the Sea is not as good despite that it at least maintains the band's melodic sence. I also have to confess that I overrated the self titled release of last year a notch or two so to recommend this album to anyone besides a die-hard fan of this Spanish ensmble would be a little out of place since there are many other much better melodic power metal albums available on the market.
Considering how high I rated Dark Moor as a band after Hall of the Olden Dreams and Gates of Oblivion it's very sad but unfortunately also very true that at least for me the band at present time needs to see much more improvement and develop (and perhaps even find ) a better musical identity with this line up the next time to really hit it off. Check out Beyond the Sea if you belong to the Dark Moor purists and if you feel that the sound of the new line up matches the old but otherwise definitely listen before you put some money on the counter.