Beyond the Pillars
James Byrd is an American Power Metal guitarist most famous for being in Fifth Angel, and Atlantis Rising is his pet project. The sessions for “Beyond the Pillars” actually go back to 1987, during the sessions for the original Atlantis Rising release, and, in different recordings, 7 of the tracks contained on Beyond the Pillars also appear on the 1990 debut.
On initial listening of this album, before knowing the history, the album sounded quite modern, with strong 80s influences, however, given it’s date of recording, these recordings were clearly well ahead of their time. The sound quality is crystal clear, and the attention to melody is distinctly late 80s power metal. In fact, this is almost an American version of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, what with the classical influences threaded into a highly melodic context. The keyboard use is also clearly pre-90s, as it is highly present, but represents the atmosphere more than the lead or the rhythm.
Having never been a fan of the 80s, I may have misjudged it’s potential for churning out excellent riffs, because “Chasing the Shadows” starts with one of the freshest galloping riffs I’ve heard to date. “On My Mind” opens with something so distinctly 80s, it made me cringe a bit, but it delivered on that grandiose promise with some killer guitar work, and something that almost edged on an early Guns N’ Roses sound. I should mention that vocalist Freddy Krumins occasionally might remind listeners of a young Axl Rose, and I say that in the best possible way. Other commercially oriented metal like Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow has a big influence on the sound, as is evident in the intro to “Waiting in the Shadows”. In true 80s form, there appears to be some electric drum sounds on this track as well. In the great 80s riff category, the intro to “Eye of the Storm” also deserves mention, beginning with a very noisy echo, that slowly fades into a singular sort of crunching that dominates through the song, with mini scale solos lacing throughout soaring vocals. Lastly I have to mention the closer, “Requiem Atlantis”. If there was one this I was always fond of from that era, it was the romantic, massive, squealed guitar solos that were all the rage. I was first exposed to this style due to Timo Tolkki’s love affair with it in his ballads, and “Requiem Atlantis” is a really fantastic example.
For fans of a more commercial, but still technical approach to metal, this is going to be a gem of any collection. The recovery of these tapes was quite fortunate, and represents some of the early stylistic movements that defined power metal.
Dagg's rating- 3.5/5