REVIEW - Beyond The Labyrinth - 'xxV' (Album)
To be honest, despite 'xxV' being their fifth album and the band being in existence for twenty-five years, Belgian band Beyond The Labyrinth were a new name to me when I was sent details of their new album. A fine pop-progressive band, 'xxV' shows the experienced members in engaging form with twelve tracks (fourteen if you buy the physical CD version) of accomplished musicianship, well-crafted songwriting and melodic, catchy tunes. This isn't your 'heavyweight' 70s prog with twenty minute 'epics', brazen displays of virtuosity and lyrics of fantasy and hobgoblins, but rather more an 80s AOR sounding form of progressive rock a la (to my mind) bands such as Asia, Magnum and Styx which informs this hugely enjoyable release.
The production of the record is light and airy with many tracks dominated by 80s influenced keyboards (excellently played by Eddy Scheire) which dovetails nicely with Geert Fieuw's fluid guitar riffs and solos - never better than on the fantastic 'Dedicated To Sir J - Rush, Rush, Rush, Fly, Fly, Fly' which channels classic Deep Purple with its Lord-esque keyboard intro and solo and Blackmore influenced guitar amidst the driving, urgent track. Hooky choruses pepper the album - album opener 'Altitude For Energy', 'Falcon Eye' and 'Long Way Home' all have great sing-along choruses while slightly rockier tracks such as 'Louder Than Thunder' and 'This Is How We Roll' show a hidden power to the band perhaps not always clear from the production of the record. There's also time for a little diversion with the funkier grooves of 'Nothing Comes For Free', the unexpected underlying dance beats of 'Up There In The Sky' and the Beatlesque ballad 'In Camera'.
With Scheire and Fieuw ably backed by Dominic Heynderickx (Bass) and Michel Lodder (Drums) and the soaring vocals of Filip Lemmens topping the fine music, 'xxV' is a great album - tuneful, concise (no track is over five minutes) and highly accessible - that will hopefully see them pick up new fans. If, like me, you've recently 'discovered' Beyond The Labyrinth, then 'xxV' should be the gateway to enjoying more excellent music - both past and future - from this fine band.
'xxV' is available now on the Beyond The Labyrinth Bandcamp page - www.beyondthelabyrinth.bandcamp.com - as a digital version or a physical CD version and will be available on Spotify from the 15th February 2022.