Beyond Fear - DTO. - SPV Records
Running Time: 47:19
Ever heard of Beyond Fear before? Yeah, me neither. Dig just beneath the surface, however, and that this is realization of the full band dream that frontman Tim Owens has probably had in the back of his mind since Judas Priest snatched him from relative obscurity in 1996 for the much-maligned but personally revered Jugulator becomes crystal clear. Tapped by Jon Schaffer shortly after Halford's return to Priest, Owens lent his ragged wail to Iced Earth's war epic The Glorious Burden, and now awaits that band's next effort, the second installment of Schaffer's Something Wicked... trilogy. Not being one to sit on his ass, Owens immediately began scavenging for members of what would become Beyond Fear, and this self-titled album is the result of that search.
'Scream Machine' shrieks its way over the horizon, and is just the completely over the top inside joke of sorts it was intended to be. A neo-power metal/hardcore hybrid musically, the song finds Owens ripping (pun intended) it up vocally for all he's worth. This is what Screaming For Vengeance would've sounded like if penned during Owens' tenure in Priest, at least to these ears. After learning of the hardcore background of the other musicians in Beyond Fear, the chug and groove of 'And…You Will Die' made a good bit more sense, but it's not what we're used to hearing from the pipes (or pen) of someone with such a background in traditional power metal. I'm sure Beyond Fear will tell you this mid-paced misfire was an effort to make their admittedly oldschool sound more palatable to today's audience, but it just doesn't do it for me. All is well, though, because the denim and leathered burl in 'Save Me' grabs you by the throat, then uses Owens' trademark screech to drive a spike through your eardrums, just the way it was intended. 'The Human Race' and 'Coming At You' revel in the glory of all things '80s, but really don't stand out, except that the latter comes off as somewhat cliché, seeming prime fodder for varsity cheerleader use at a pep rally. It takes effort to write a power ballad, and not have it end up dripping in sticky-sweet and schmaltz. Oh, sure, 'Dreams Come True' is a veritable waterfall of emotion, but the music is so well-played that it carries the lyric in this song of looking back on the past while setting your sights on the future. Skillful dual leads recalling a certain former band of Owens' pepper 'Telling Lies', the hardcore background of the members being again evident in the chunky chordings and use of staccato riffing. 'I Don't Need This' of note musically, working a plodding heavy blues into BF's power metal formula, but the near-breakdown coming out of the solo is just not necessary. Back in the day, we'd have called that part a riff, and a riff it may still be, but all the kids of today will think is "breakdown". Drummer Eric Elkins turns in his finest performance in 'Words Of Wisdom', equally catchy and heavy, he's all over the kit, and good at what he does. 'The Faith' is primed for final song status in the live setting, and this is where it lies on DTO., ending the album on a triumphant note as a declaration of the eternal fire that burns in the heart of Beyond Fear.
While most of the album chugs along at a testosterone-fuelled mid-pace, the Jim Morris production gives DTO. just enough of that Obituary heaviness to push it past the redline. A mixed bag, to be sure, but a good first showing from one of the most reliable voices in power metal over the past ten years. So, did "Ripper" make good on his promise of a oldschool album with a new-school energy? And then some...