The Old Man and The Spirit is the debut full-length album by German progressive metal act Beyond the Bridge. The album was released in 2012 and is a concept release. With eleven tracks and close to sixty-eight minutes of music, the ambition of the young act (well, actually they’ve been around awhile, but their efforts are only just come to fruition) is not to be understated.
Conceptually what Beyond the Bridge have done here is like the premise of a rock opera, but with a cast of two, those two being their two lead singers, Herbie Langhans and Dilenya Mar, and the characters being the two mentioned in the title. The Old Man (Langhans) “a bon vivant who has lived through all highs and lows of human sensation. Steadied by his old age, he searches for a sense, for a coherence, for the meaning of his life in the maelstrom of transciency” to quote the band’s official description, and The Spirit (Mar). “She is the personification of all wisdom and awareness that is unachievable to mankind, however, lacks of the ability to feel” to quote again. As such Beyond the Bridge utilised the use of having both male and female vocals on this release as something more than just being for the sake of it, and they don’t go out of their way to make sure both singers feature in every song, in fact we don’t even hear Dilenya Mar in the opening track, The Call. Instead they sing when the story requires them to, and this format has worked to Beyond the Bridge’s advantage. And no, you can shut those warning bells off, this is no beauty and the beast styled vocal duo, but two cleaning singing vocalists who prove that it is very possible to pull off these vocal line-ups without one singing coming across as unneeded baggage.
Musically we’re talking progressive metal with elements of a symphonic prog sound thrown in. The vocals of the two singers are great but one must not overlook the excellent music behind them. There is plenty of complexity to sink your teeth into, and Beyond the Bridge clearly know how to pull off drawn out instrumental sections with the best of them. In fact they keep their music so interesting and flowing that songs even with above average lengths like The Apparition pass me by as would a shorter song, so absorbed into the album I am. Sometimes it’s also hard to notice when one song ends and the next has started. I like that in a concept album, it should feel like one big song, and The Old Man and The Spirit fits that description in my opinion. Beyond the Bridge are musically highly accomplished.
My one compliant is a small one because it doesn’t deduct a lot from my enjoyment and appreciation of the album; sometimes I wish their riffs had a bit more of an edge to them. The album feels all very clean and polished, which I don’t have any problem with for progressive metal, in fact I want it clean and polished so I can take in every perfect detail, but it does feel to me that with The Old Man and The Spirit it was overdone a bit. Doorway to Salvation kicks off more aggressively but I could have done with a little more oomph to the riffs overall all the same. Even with that quibble though, I’ve found The Old Man and The Spirit is be an exceptional debut album from Beyond the Bridge. If flowing and complex conceptual progressive metal is your thing then it is pretty much an essential purchase and comes highly recommended!
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))