Dark Moor – Beyond The Sea
Dark Moor – Beyond The Sea (2005)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
The year is 2005. Bassist Daniel Fernández has joined Dark Moor to replace the departing Anan Kaddouri, and guitarist José Garrido is no more, leaving Enrik Garcia (now the sole founding member of the band) to handle all guitar duties on his own. After the change of pace that occurred in 2003 with the release of the band’s self-titled album, and with so many lineup changes in the past few years, it was anyone’s guess as to how this new album would turn out. This album was also released right around the time that I got into power metal myself, and as such, I am without the bias that many of the band’s older fans had (insofar as still believing that Elisa Martin was Dark Moor’s only “real” singer).
As it turns out, Beyond The Sea would end up continuing the slow transformation that began as early as The Gates Of Oblivion and became more prominent on Dark Moor. Here, Garcia and Romero, working hand in hand, continue to move the music towards being vocally-centered and away from the lightning lead guitar-heavy approach of old. Keys and orchestral arrangements also become increasingly important on Beyond The Sea, and a full backing choir has been assembled to add layers of textural depth to the music. This, of course, begins sounding like the Dark Moor that listeners are familiar with today – and this album is where I’d mark the beginning of the “modern era” of the band, with the self-titled album being a bit of a stand-alone between the two, despite Romero’s presence.
Beyond The Sea boasts what will gradually become close to an average formula for the band: A very hooky opener (“Before The Duel”), several sweeping, mid-tempo tracks (“Miracles”, “Green Eyes”, “Beyond The Sea”), a couple of instrumental entries (“Through The Gates Of The Silver Key”, “Julius Caesar”, “Vivaldi’s Winter”), a fast neoclassical burner or two (“Alea Jacta”, “The Silver Key”), and a few other entries of mixed tempos to spice things up. My favorites here, as usual, tend to be the quicker tracks – especially “Before The Duel” and “Alea Jacta”, though I find bonus track “The Sea” (NOT the earlier title track “Beyond The Sea”) to be quite enchanting – the tinkly percussion in the introduction and the enchanting solo section in particular. “Vivaldi’s Winter”, which is a metal interpretation of just that, also appears as a bonus track with a couple minutes of silence followed by a short piano piece, as well as “The Mysterious Maiden”. This last track previously appeared as a bonus on some versions of Dark Moor as well. Make sense? No, I don’t get it either.
Despite the decent spread of compositions, the slowing of tempos and reigned-in use of guitar in many places (again, probably owing to Garcia going it solo here) make for a less entertaining listen. Actually, I find Beyond The Sea to be, while not inconsistent, probably the weakest listen in the band’s discography except for maybe debut Shadowland. Romero’s voice isn’t quite the glimmering, smooth thing that it would come to be after more experience, and sometimes the band’s midtempo tracks drag on a bit at this point in its career. However, looking ahead, the formula plotted out here would ultimately turn out to be rather successful. For the band’s nearly impeccable catalog, Beyond The Sea is as close as it comes to “pretty good” after the debut, but would still be a banner album for most other artists.
3.5 // 5