THE 9 REVIEWS
Are you ready for a bombastic, fantastic, symphonic metal album for the
new age!? Indeed "Flying Beyond The 9" is an album that people
will talk about for a long time as guitarist James Byrd have done a really
solid album here without any real downsides. Byrd a well-known person
in the inner circles of instrumental guitar rock may be more famous for
the average hard rock fan for his days with FIFTH ANGEL, a band which
he formed together with Ted Pilot & Ken Mary already back in 1982
You can't help to notice that his biography states that Byrd started to
play guitar the very same day Jimi Hendrix died and in this, his story
is apparently almost the same as Yngwie Malmsteen's. You could say that
his guitar work on this CD is sometimes similar to the above mentioned
guitar God? from Sweden as they both like to include lots of classical
influences. I would however like to point out that Byrd is no Yngwie wannabe
and that "Flying Beyond The 9" sounds more like a lovely mix
of bands such as: Royal Hunt, Robbie Valentine, Styx, Stryper, Dream Theater
and ... yes ... add a big dose of Yngwie Malmsteen and you're pretty close.
I must say, Michael Flatters is an impressive vocalist and his voice fits
perfectly to everything from slow songs to high pitched up tempo tracks,
and big credit must go to Brian Hutchinson as he handles all the keys,
bass & drums. I find it difficult to pick out any of the songs here,
but I would like to mention the opening and title track "Flying Beyond
The 9" as its a great song with some lovely vocal harmonies a-la
Stryper. It also kinda reminds me of Yngwie's old classic "Heaven
Tonight". "W.T.O." (We Took Over) is a great mid tempo
neo-classical/symphonic anthem with some outstanding guitar work but the
real winner here is "Paradise Tonight" with a absolutely marvelous
sound and a really catchy chorus. If you like symphonic, neo classical
music that are both melodic and progressive (ok, enough already) then
you really can't go wrong with this release.
8+ Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
Under-titled 'Symphonic metal for the new age', this CD is -as always
with James- a musical exploration with some recollections of things past.
Indeed, the solo of the track Flying beyond the 9 reminds me a lot of
some licks from 'Son of Man'. I won't take one hour to give you my opinion
on that album : this is the best neo-classical album I've heard for years.
The thing I really appreciate is that beyond the fact that each musician
is brings is own musical approach (the singer Michael Flatters and Brian
Hutchinson are really valuable players), James did a perfect orchestration
to integrate his guitar playing with singing and keyboard (Everything
to me is one example). It's also refreshing to hear neo-classical music
which takes the time to breath with some piano breaks and guitar intros,
this contributes indeed to the unique atmosphere of this CD. Also to be
noticed some real cool tracks such as All of me. Concerning the guitar,
James do not only provide us terrifying guitar solos (if a comparison
could be made, this mixture of technique and emotion could be compared
to early Malmsteen), but also a real emotion and an inventive support
of the singing (hear Dark Heart with the little arpeggios). If you already
know James' music or just want to hear good music : go to Lion Music and
buy it ! Fabien
ROCK HARD PLACE
Guitar Virtuoso James Byrd (Fifth Angel) returns with a powerful new project
for the new Millennium. In fact, the CD Cover literally says "Symphonic
Metal For The New Age". Byrd never quite achieved the notoriety of
peers like Yngwie Malmsteen or Michael Schenker, but listening to him
play makes you wonder why. One reason might be the progressive nature
of the music isn't as listener friendly or as commercial as some other
guitar greats. On this project he is joined by vocalist "Michael
Flatters" who does a fine job with the intricate song structures
and melodies that Byrd has written. I must admit that it took me a couple
listens before really grasping the project, I think the fact it's so busy
requires an extended attention span. I also felt the CD got stronger and
more enjoyable as it went along. I really enjoyed "Everything To
Me", "Unity (while you were sleeping)", and "Paradise
Tonight". There was some incredible song-writing and performance
on these cuts specifically. The music itself is probably considered more
AOR than Metal. The production is quite "soft" if that makes
any sense. I guess I don't consider the music heavy, but rather smooth
and pleasant. The drums could have been a bit stronger, at least the kick.
That may have made the CD more appealing to the Metalheads. Overall, if
you're into Progressive music, Melodic AOR, or just some slick guitar
work, you'll enjoy James Byrd's "Flying Behind The 9". It may
not be for everyone, but then again, if you spend your time trying to
please everyone, you're not being true to the music, and you can't accuse
Byrd of not being true to his art.
What a pleasant surprise! Guitarist James Byrd (ex-FIFTH ANGEL) is back
with his new band BYRD and a brand new style! Most of the guitar hero
parts have been left behind and been replaced by symphonic and classic
sounds which are very unique, so that the tracks on "Flying Beyond
The 9" are very hard to describe. The overall style maybe called
a mix between sounds from Queen, Malmsteen, Valentine, Phantoms Opera
and Reingold mostly even though the complete album doesn't completely
sound like one of those at all. Besides the beautiful guitar lines and
melodies, new vocalist Michael Flatters really shines on this one who
sounds a bit like a cross between Göran Edman (Kharma etc.) and Freddie
Mercury (Queen) at times and perfectly fits to the compositions. Speaking
of those songs: I can't spot a weak track here at all! My personal faves
include the bombastic "W.T.O. (We Took Over)", the hyper melodic
"Paradise Tonight" and "Avianti Suite Op. 1 No. 63"
- the neoclassical, instrumental part of the album. "Flying Beyond
The 9" is one of the best solo albums by a guitarist since a very
long time. Highly recommended to any fan of symphonic, bombastic and classical
influenced music! 5/6
James Byrd is out with a new album in the neo-classical symphonic vein.
'Flying Beyond The 9' is a vision of progressive metal for the new millennium.
Stylistically the album ventures into neo-romantic/neo-classical compositions
that melds all the best elements of groups like Styx and Queen, with fully
orchestrated support, and incredible musicianship. Check out the BYRD
website for sound bytes!
THE METAL OBSERVER
Ok. Another Lion Music-release. Goody, goody. Progressive Metal again.
Nope! This is super syrupy, slick as hell, commercial Metal, with influences
weighing heavy from QUEEN, Yngwie Malmsteen, TNT and others in this vein.
The guitar-playing is absolutely superb, very Yngwie-ish, lots of single
coil, little distorted arpeggios, little to no reverb, very dry, very
clean and usually very short in context. With keyboard-laden songs and
the ever-soothing voice, this is an absolute gem from a song-writing guitar
virtuoso. Nothing is in question here at all. The song-writing is strong,
the guitar-playing is WOW! and the musicianship behind the super sweet
vocals is solid as hell. Only problem, just a little too much Yngwie-influence
and not enough personality or originality. BUT........I really like it,
as any guitar-player would. This is an obvious talent. Along with his
axe mastery, his pop hooks are top notch and I will be interested to see
how long it is until Mr. Byrd is a guitar-icon! Very nice indeed!
RAINBOW FLAMES METAL DOMAIN
James Byrd, the Seattle native is back with his sixth and best solo album
under the title of 'Flying Beyond The 9'. The guitarist has been through
a lot in his long career from forming the Melodic Power Metal band Fifth
Angel, to releasing one of the most critically acclaimed instrumental
albums ever in 'Son Of Man'. He is also the only artist that Yngwie Malmsteen
has ever given an official seal of approval too. So you may be asking
yourself why do I not own anything by him? Well all I can answer is amend
that with this album! 'Flying Beyond The 9' is definitive Byrd but yet
its a new beginning in many ways. Firstly James has finally got the kind
of production he has so richly deserved with everything on this release
being crystal clear and ultra powerful. Second Byrd's songwriting has
reached a new plateau with 'FBT9'. By cutting down a lot of the guitar
work during the main framework of the song Byrd has given the songs room
to breathe and they come across all the stronger as a result, guitar fans
should not fear as there is still a lot of guitar on the album with the
solo sections shining brighter as a result of not being cluttered by excessive
fretwork elsewhere. Whilst long time fans know Byrd has a knack of picking
hot vocal talent [in Robert Mason, Torey Kendall and Freddy Krumins] he
has outdone himself this time with Michael Flatters, this guy has a set
of pipes on a par with Geoff Tate and Ronnie Dio, perfectly able to blend
his voice to suit the nature of the track and in now working with Takara.
The majority of the tracks have symphonic backing / embellishments which
all help to make the album sound huge, yet it avoids sounding cluttered
and helps add to the majesty of the tracks. Bass, Keys and Drums were
provided by Brian Hutchinson who also engineered the album and he has
done a terrific job.
1. FLYING BEYOND THE 9 [4.20] Opening
with a mass of vocals the crystal clear production jumps straight out
at you. Byrd's guitar enters and the new found clarity in his tone is
astounding. The track recalls the metal crunch of Fifth Angel but with
a more sophisticated edge. Michael Flatters' vocals work perfectly over
the metallic crunch of the main riff and the track certainly sets the
pace for the rest of the album.
2. DARK HEART [5.02] Starting with
a slow classical motif will please all fans of neo-classical metal. The
track quickly changes direction for another mammoth riff that creates
a backdrop for Flatters' vocals which here remind me of the best of Queensrÿche's
Geoff Tate. The track actually has a little of the dark Queensrÿche
techno metal feel to it, but the chorus is a bit more left field. "Sunrise
upon my heart, waiting ships do oceans call...pretty one on golden wing
- is your wisdom in your king?". The sophisticated orchestral backing
here makes the track jump out at you even more whiles Byrd throws down
one of my favourite guitar solos of the whole album here - stunning! A
contender for track of the album.
3. W.T.O. [WE TOOK OVER] [4.59] Another
extremely strong track that fuses commercial melodic metal with the prog
leanings of Queen. The chorus is extremely catchy despite the sharp lyrics
attacking the shambles of the W.T.O. [World Trade Organization]. The symphonic
backing here is mightily majestic with the horn sections being particularly
noteworthy, don't let this make you think that this is anything but heavy
though...many bands would be proud of the energy displayed here. Another
strong solo from Byrd adds nicely to the track but its the infectious
vocal melody that will stand out from this track.
4. NEVERMORE [5.12] Opening with a
menagerie of church organ and Byrd's guitar 'Nevermore' gets off to a
haunting start. This feel is further enhanced by the dark pulsating groove
of the track, and this is even further added to by scathing lyrics to
former record companies over shady business practices and malpractice.
It also offers a warning to those starting out in the business that it
is not all roses and champagne. "Take it from an angry man, pay my
wage upon demand what made you think I would bend? Counting my options
and trying to stay cool when did you make up the rules - you're not God".
Michael Flatters vocals again impress and the depth added to them by double
and triple tracking pays dividends in delivering the songs message. Musically
the track is again overflowing with imaginative ideas that are not heard
everyday - especially in the metal genre - yet they still have a commerciality
to them that makes them irresistible, the often complex harmonic ideas
translate extremely well through the speakers while the counterpoints
make the grandeur even more obvious, another splendid track
5. EVERYTHING TO ME [6.22] "Everything
To Me" opens with a simple pulsating bass line over which drums,
orchestration and grand piano is added, Byrd's HUGE sounding guitar enters
the mix next and the track looks like being another stunner. Thankfully
it does not disappoint and only gets stronger as it progresses. The chorus
is super catchy and again will linger hours after in your head. The track
is in effect a love song but the up tempo and upbeat nature of it certainly
makes it leap out from other tracks in this style by other artists. Byrd's
guitar solo continues the upbeat feel of the track with some cool licks
throughout in major keys. "Everything To Me" features yet more
superlative performances from all involved and the production is again
6. UNITY [WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING]
[6.00] Guitar and lone grand piano open the track and give it another
haunting start, it must be noted that Byrd's guitar tone and phrasing
is again stunning here. The rest of the band then kicks in for the verse
and this is in a super quirky time signature. Michael Flatters must have
killed himself to get the phrasing right here but he has and it sounds
superb, this track again brings a Queensrÿche type feel but that
is probably down to the simple fact that this is just well executed intelligent
metal. The chorus sees a more basic time signature come into play and
again it is super catchy, the track picks up tempo slightly for a ripping
guitar solo from Byrd that enhances the track further. Another highlight.
7. PARADISE TONIGHT [5.05] Another
track that opens with harmonized vocals - "We'll be in Paradise Tonight,
as fallen angels we must rise". A almost funky bass line is the basis
for a great riff from Byrd that leads into more simplistic areas for the
verse. The pre chorus has an aggressive metal element to it and the choir
synth part here really makes it stand out. The chorus is the opening vocal
refrain underpinned by Byrd's riffing and symphonic backing - creating
a huge sound. The solo is another one of my favorites with a superb quirky
part that leads into a beautiful classical motif before returning back
into the catchy chorus. The symphonic backing is pretty wide here with
horn fanfares, tympani drums, choirs all of which never gets muddied in
the mix - excellent.
8. ALL OF ME [5.00] This is the track
that will probably throw long term Byrd fan slightly as it features NO
guitar! What this does prove however is that James Byrd is not only a
master guitarist but also a master songwriter as it is not missed one
iota. The track starts out very dark with sound clips of sparse words
that seem to tell a story if you can fill in the blanks. "All Of
Me" is vocalist Michael Flatters magnum performance on the album,
here he manages to make his voice run the whole spectrum of styles, from
Alice Cooper type evil/haunting to middle ground to the soaring heights
of Dio and Tate, truly impressive. The track is primarily led by Grand
Piano and the sound is nothing but powerful and commanding, it reminds
me in some ways as Byrd's version of Pink Floyd's 'Us & Them' combined
with Alice Cooper's 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry' and then mixed with Queen's
'White Queen' yet retaining a totally original quality. Another highlight.
9. AVIANTI SUITE [4.15] After the
guitar less 'All Of Me' the album closes with the only instrumental of
the album, the change in direction of no guitar then guitar certainly
makes this track hit your consciousness. Words simply cannot sum up the
beauty and royal ness of this track. Every melody is just right, every
phrase, note and little inflection is just perfect. The mood of the track
runs from light flirting almost humorous lines to dark, deep and complex
passages - every base is touched and every one comes away victorious.
Byrd's guitar tone is again something to behold - no excess distortion,
just TONE that sings, weeps, moans and roars - everything is clearly audible
and truly it is magnificent. Byrd's instrumental masterpiece.
FLYING BEYOND THE 9 is certainly everything
it was promised to be, but that's not the half of it. It manages to take
all that was great about James Byrd's previous works and build upon them
to create not only a new landmark for Byrd, but in my eyes the beginning
of a whole new career. Every track here jumps out at you as being 100%
sincere and heartfelt, you can tell Byrd took his time to get this one
right, every nuance and inflection sounds like it was meant to be here.
Not only is the music superb but the production is one of the best I have
heard in ages and those on big production budgets and in multi million
dollar studios could all learn something from this, its the ears that
count above all else. FBT9 multi-instrumentalist and engineer Brian Hutchinson
deserves a special mention here as the whole symphonic backing works perfectly
and the balance is just right making a superb success out of what could
have been a potential mess - rest assured this is one massive sonic album.
This basically leaves the question to what's for James Byrd. That I cannot
answer but I do know that if its half as good as FLYING BEYOND THE 9 it
will be good enough for me.
Guitarist James Byrd's name might strike a chord with Fifth Angel fans,
but it should soon strike a chord with fans of classic, epic, melodic
metal. The title track something of a modern Heep vibe, soars both vocally
and sonically. The dreamy guitar playing and dramatic pacing make for
a grand entrance. The rest of the disc recalls theatrical Savatage in
the progressive piano/guitar combinations, yet floats a bit more. In fact,
the album is quite light in an early '70s prog way, but not in the detached
pompous sense. This is more of a fantasy landscape dotted with misty sprays
of orchestration with a surprisingly judicious use of guitar. Cinematic
is many regards. Byrd is smart to back off on the guitar at times, allowing
for the songs to fall into the spotlight. This is not to take anything
away from his playing, for it is fantastic on most of the disc. It is
just that he has a veteran capacity to better the experience by focusing
on each piece, nurturing where it needs help, yet letting it get it wings
without the axe pummeling unnecessarily. Of note, Byrd wrote all the material
and arranged the orchestration, so this vision is still his own, even
when the guitar is unplugged and sitting in the corner for a bit. A mostly
satisfying, often wondrous set. Recommended for fans of Heep, The Moody
Blues and/or Savatage.
Brian Coles Rating 4/5
A 21st century musical master piece! "Flying Beyond The Nine"
sets new neo-classical standards by all means. James Byrd is a genius.
9 is on of the most inspirational musical pieces I've heard
in a while. Byrd's guitar work, is smoking. This release is very creative,
melodic, intelligent and catchy. His guitar is always singing the whole
way through. If your a fan of Neo-classical metal, then this album is
a must buy for you. Byrd can stand up to the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen
in my opinion (and that's saying a lot). In fact in past reviews, Yngwie
actually complimented Byrds playing. I really enjoyed listening
to the CD all the way through, on the first try. For me, it usually takes
a few listens to really absorb an album, but this one hit me just right
on the first go. I'd even go as far to say as James Byrd picks up where
Yngwie left off with "The Seventh Sign" and "Magnum Opus"
days. Byrd blends in plenty of his own flare that's for sure. Lets start
by saying this; he is by far no Yngwie carbon copy or clone. James songs
are so original and unique. Every song on the album sounds totally different
from the next. If youre also a fan of great vocal work, buy this
CD as well. Michael Flatters, voice is killer. He has lots of range, highs
lows, etc. This is by far the BEST neo-classical /metal guitar driven
release I heard in a long time. By far James Byrd is laying new rail with
his virtuoso guitar work. He is a Shreddzone, preferred player! James
has really been an ever growing guitarist over the years, starting in
the early 1980s moving on to his Fifth Angel days to his all out
shred albums on Shrapnel Records, to his current style. Jamess playing
has adapted and grown well. He doesn't get old. Period. This album has
many styles on it, classical being the most obvious, along with Progressive,
Heavy Metal, and your pop sing along vocal lines. Byrd never comes across
as being outdated, or trendy. He breaks new foundations for his music
with "9." After each listen, you'll be dying to get the next
release. So brush up on your Harmonic Minor and lets take a journey through
the neo-classical madness of James Byrd.
Track one "Flying Beyond The
9" starts off with a killer sing along, vocal harmony. What a great
way to start of a CD. Then comes in a in your face guitar riff. James
then blends in some tasteful keyboard lines. Byrd's choice of keyboards
throughout the album was a superb idea. They really add lots of taste
and texture to the tracks, defiantly being one of my favorite additions.
At 00:30 pops in a sweet catchy lead, great guitar tone to I might add.
James uses the "old" Marshal heads, eight speaker vintage cabs,
beefed up single coil pickups and that trusty old DOD Overdrive Preamp
250 pedal. His lead tone is so clear, crisp and bright, there is never
a screeching note! Lyrics in this song are super cool, easy to follow
and sing along with. In at 3:16 heads in a great neo-classical lead section,
complete with shred, and classical movements. Very well arranged. Then
listen closely to James leads over the ending if the song, you might just
get something out of them.
Track two "Dark Heart is
a slower paced, darker track filled with tons of classical influenced
lines all over. Cool slow jam riff. This song would be great to practice
your soloing over. There are lots of movements, and he builds upon each
of them with mastery. Vocals are great on this on as well. 03:51 starts
the lead. Super clean arpeggios, those are my favorite part of the song.
Then James goes nuts, and really shows a classical master shreds. The
keyboards in this track really add a lot of layers to the track, defiantly
an added bonus.
"W.T.O." (We took over),
track three reminds me of the "Atlantis Rising" Byrd that we
all now and love. The rocking guitar intro and his lead from 00:09-00:29
just floor me. Especially at 00:19, reminds me of the old shrapnel days.
I give four stars for that one. The chorus in this song really rocks.
It builds very well. Song lyrics are great as well. Catchy! Keys really
rock in this one as well. Then at 01:25 starts a cool classical lead section.
James uses a lot of harmonics in this track, more than most other songs
on the disc. 02:56 starts the main lead section off, lots of shred, and
cool runs. The runs James does are super cool, and clean. Please give
them a listen. James leads always sound very clean. Not choppy at all.
Check out the arpeggios from hell as a backing to the vocals at 3:24.
Need I say more? Also pay attention to Byrd's background leads throughout
the song I was really impressed.
Track four "Nevermore" starts
off with a smoking lead section. Again, you get to get a taste of that
sweet sounding guitar tone. This song really has a different feel to it.
It shuffles through the main verse, like a monster creeping in the shadows.
Chorus is very catchy, and it builds very well. This song really displays
Byrd's ability to morph guitar lines together. At 00:41, the first appearance
of the songs repeating lick. It refreshes itself a bunch of times throughout
the song. This track is very melodic, and almost evil sounding. Again
pay close attention to James's backing guitar leads. Check out the ending
keyboard section at 04:11. Its dark and evil sounding, in the vein of
"Phantom of the Opera."
"Everything To Me" track
five begins with an ear pleasing and melodic keyboard line, then incomes
a massive building lead ala, Byrd. This song is a slower paced one, with
cool lyrics and lots of vocal harmonies. The bridge is very upbeat and
chorus lines really add life. The drums really stand out in this part
as well, jamming beats. Jamess backing leads and rhythms really
add a lot of texture to this song. 03:09 starts the main lead section.
Its a tasty and melodic, pay close attention to the part at 03:16.
Great ending lead section as well. Byrd never displeases that's for sure.
Track six "Unity" (when
you were sleeping) really hits a homerun. Begins with a cool piano line,
soon to be joined by a moody lead. One of my favorite lead sections on
this disc is here. This song is also a slower paced one. Very cool main
guitar riff. Keys add a lot this song as well. Chorus lyrics are very
catchy on this one too. Flatters really shows off his vocal range on this
song. I really like the main vocal line in this track a lot. Very well
done, and gets you rocking.
"We'll be in paradise tonight"... starts off track seven
"Paradise Tonight." What
a killer vocal harmony that one is. Jamess guitar work throughout
the song rocks. Get those fists pumping in the air; I hear a new metal
anthem! Kick ass chorus line! James use of keyboard accents really rock
in this track, reminds me of Europe's "The Final Countdown.
3:15 begins the solo, this one is mild paced, and a cool part to listen
to is at 3:22. Bach like if you may. This track also has those trademark
backing leads. The leads starting at 3:23 really stick out, super melodic,
and lots of soul. They lock so well with the vocals.
Track eight "All of Me"
is the slowest piece on the disc. Very melodic, and it moves very well.
Michael Flatters, really shows how diverse of a singer he can be in this
one. Cool multi part harmonies and over laying vocal lines. No guitars!
No leads, but I don't think this song really needs them. Its calm
and soothing. Defiantly a song to wake up to!
"Avianti Suite Op. 1 No. 63,"
track nine is a definite classical masterpiece! I can't begin to stop
and pick out certain parts because they all intertwine with each other.
This song is amazing. The work of a true musical genius! Could stand the
test of time, next to Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach! I was floored the first
time I heard it and had to listen to it about 3 times in a row! Buying
the disc for this song alone is worth the money!
Production on this CD is some of the best I've heard in a long time form
an independent guitarist. Pro sound quality 100%. You never have to re-E.Q.
that stereo. No guts no glory here. Superb! As far as James's guitar tone,
its great. Not, raspy, not to high end, just clean! He uses a nice
blend of tones, not to many though, reverb a concert hall patch and the
DOD Preamp 250 pedal. It really makes that guitar sing. Looking back,
this CD is my top vote for best classical, metal release so far this year!
James Byrds ever changing style never seems to stop amazing me.
You still get all his trademark licks and tricks, just with some new insight,
and flare. James will create a blazing ring of fire around you as you
listen, not letting you escape until hes left a 3rd degree burn
on you! Its a 21st century masterpiece. You get it all with "9,"
progressive touches, your heavy metal head bangers, and your ear-pleasing
sing along vocal lines. So do yourself a huge favor and go buy this CD!
James Byrds real musical career started when he formed the band
Fifth Angel. In late 1987/early 1988 they released the legendary Fifth
Angel album on Shrapnel Records. Unfortunately James only recorded
one album with them. In 1991 he released an album under his own name,
namely James Byrds Atlantis Rising. Two years later his first instrumental
album Octoglomerate was released which was very well appreciated
by the other guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen. Another instrumental masterpiece
Son Of Man was recorded in 1995. The latest album for Shrapnel
was The Apocalypse Chime in 1996, where he joined forces with
vocalist Robert Mason (ex-Lynch Mob). In 1997, James returned to the Atlantis
Rising name and found a new label (JVC Japan/Mascot Europe) and new line-up.
Crimes of Virtuosity was released in 1998, a bit in the same
style as his previous release. After this he took time to compose new
songs. He signed a deal with Lion Music and released Flying Beyond
The 9. On this album are 9 songs which were written in 1999 and
2000. He worked together with Michael James Flatters (excellent lead vocals!)
and Brian Hutchinson (keyboards, bass, drums). Almost all the songs are
mid-tempo symphonic/neo-classical heavy rock masterpieces, with great
orchestral arrangements. The guitar parts from James are strongly influenced
by Uli Jon Roth and Yngwie Malmsteen, so this album is also a must for
guitar freaks (like me). The album ends with the beautiful instrumental
composition Avianti Suite. A very strong comeback from James!
9.5 - Ronny Elst.
Former Fifth Angel and Atlantis Rising guitar player James Byrd is back
with another solo album. The full album title is "Flying Beyond The
9 - Symphonic Metal For The New Age". When I listened to the title
track, I instantly thought of the good old Malmsteen heydays. New age
or retro? As you may know, "Yngwie The Terrible" is a huge fan
of Byrd's playing. And just like Yngwie, also James is a fan of neo-classical
guitar playing, symphonic arrangements etc. Another similarity: Both Yngwie
and James change their singers like their pants (at least I hope they
change their pants!). After Freddie Crumins, Robert Mason (ex-Lynch Mob,
Cry Of Love) and Kendall Torrey, James presents a new vocalist: Ex-Heir
Apparent and current Takara singer Michael James Flatters. But where Yngwie
whimped out on his last albums and over-stretched the egomaniac game,
James has recorded an album full of highly enjoyable compositions (and
also with a great production, hehe). "Flying Beyond The 9" features
nine tracks, all of them written by Byrd. Michael sang, Brian Hutchinson
played the keyboards, bass and drums (I assume with the help of some technical
devices). They are dominated by Byrd's guitar playing, of course. But
also Michael can convince with a high and very melodic voice. Reminds
me a bit of Goran Edman. Although he didn't write the vocal lines, his
performance is very emotional and fits well to the outstanding orchestral
arrangements, which accompany almost every track. That's what I especially
like when I listen to this album: the huge harmonies. Byrd really is a
great arranger (just check out the instrumental track "Avianti Suite
Op 1 No 63" - the main melody reminds me a bit of Johann Sebastian
Bach's "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desire"). But between his extensive
solo parts, Flatters has enough room to prove his skills. It's a well-balanced
record. All of you who are disappointed by the last Yngwie Malmsteen albums
should check out James Byrd.
9/10 Review by RAGE.
The day Jimi Hendrix died (September 18, 1970), James Byrd knew that he
wanted to become a guitarist. Influenced by lots of blues guitarists,
he learned to play the guitar within a period of 5 years. Aged 18, he
left home and went on the road with a heavy metal act that covered songs
by Scorpions (Uli Roth period) and UFO. After a year he was sick of playing
covers and in 1980 he started his own band. Late 1981 he moved to L.A.,
where he spent a year playing in the clubs. At the end of 1982 he had
enough of it and returned to Seattle where he met Ken Mary and Ted Pilot,
with whom he formed Fifth Angel. Two years later they recorded a four
song demo (under the guidance of Terry Date), which was sent to all the
important labels. After only one listen Shrapnel's Mike Varney was on
the phone to sign the band. Five more songs were recorded and in 1986
"Fifth Angel" saw the light of day. Rave reviews fell to them
and Byrd started to get endorsement offers. In 1987 Fifth Angel was signed
to Concrete (management) and Epic/CBS (for a 7 album deal), which re-released
the debut album shortly after. As soon as large sums of money looked likely,
the seeds of destruction for Fifth Angel were sown and shortly after the
Epic/CBS agreement was signed, James Byrd left the band he'd created.
In 1988/1989 he returned to Shrapnel Records under his own name and recorded
"James Byrd's Atlantis Rising". Due to a lawsuit between Shrapnel
and their distributors the album was difficult to find in the U.S., but
it sold well in Europe and Japan. In 1993 Byrd recorded his first instrumental
album (called "Octoglomerate") and Yngwie Malmsteen became one
of his admirers. Two years later "Son Of Man" followed and on
the sticker that was to be found on its cover, you could read: "James
Byrd is the most exciting European sounding guitarist I've heard in years,
Yngwie Malmsteen". Malsteen further mentioned the name of Byrd in
many interviews and by 1996 you could read a major Byrd feature in the
world famous Guitar Magazine. 1996 also brought the release of "The
Apocalypse Chime" (by The James Byrd Group), featuring ex-Lynch Mob
vocalist Robert Mason. It was Byrd's last album for Shrapnel and in 1997
he returned to the Atlantis Rising name and signed with JVC in Japan and
Mascot in Europe. A new album, "Crimes Of Virtuosity", was released
in 1998. We haven't heard that much of the guitarist ever since, but -
out of the blue - now he's back under the monicker of Byrd with a neo-classical
album called "Flying Beyond The 9". I'm not sure, but I suppose
the 9 in the title refers to the 9 songs on offer. When I got this album
from Lion Music, I didn't expect that much of it, but as a matter of fact
Byrd took me by surprise. Stylistically the music on his album can be
described as neo-classical symphonic metal, fully orchestrated by the
master himself. Support on this album came from vocalist Michael James
Flatters (who's a real revelation) and Brian Hutchinson, who played keyboards,
bass & drums. Besides the title track, I can also tip you to listen
to "Everything To Me" and "All Of Me", which are all
glorious highlights on the album. In the year 2001 Byrd sounds a whole
lot better than his admirer Malmsteen.
81/100 Review by Chris Lambert.
Well I'll be damned. I honestly thought I'd never hear an album like this
again. A weird thing to say, since I don't really know where I might have
heard *anything* like this before in my life. Not from Byrd himself, cause
this is my first acquaintance with him. And it's definitely not a rip
off or such. Byrd delivers an album that reminds me of classic rock albums
like Yngwie's "Rising Storm" period, the melodic classical rock
from Dutch rocker Valentine, and everything from the Beatles to Shadow
Gallery in between. Cause truly it is music that really overflows with
diversity. There's pop, rock, symphonic stuff, weird rhythm changes, tacky
vocals, great harmonies way cool lead guitar stuff and tons more!!! I
am absolutely amazed...Even more so because this is an album I didn't
expect from Lion Music. Lion Music has provided us here at rocknet with
excellent guitar oriented music from the likes of Alex Masi, Torben Enevoldsen
and Lars Eric Mattson and somehow Byrd doesn't really fit in there...Then
again, I'm not complaining, cause this album ROCKS. It would be easy to
credit James Byrd for his arpeggio-laden guitar work, and he'd deserve
to be credited, but if I had only one aspect to point out I'd have to
go for the songwriting and arranging. There is so much to listen to, catchy
melodies interwoven with intricate rhythm's and complex melodies. It's
enough to make your head spin. Arrangements are full, but not over the
top, and though his lead guitar work is prominently featured, it's always
worked into the song so well, that it's not forced upon you... (perhaps
maybe except for the final track.. an instrumental). Way to go Byrd! Now
for that back catalog.. :)
Guitar God James Byrd has been shredding peoples mind with his amazing
guitar playing skills since the eighties when he was the main guitarist
in Fifth Angel. After Fifth Angel's dissolution he started a solo career
with acclaimed albums like "Atlantis Rising" or "Octoglomerate".
Now it is time for James to return to action with "Flying Beyond
the 9" and this is not an instrumental album it is something in a
hard rock vein like for examples Tony Macalpine's album "Eyes of
The World" but heavier. "Flying beyond the 9", the first
song is full of vocal harmonies and the shredding of Byrd. Michael Flatters
is a good vocalist for James Byrd's music, he can be commercial when he
wants and stronger when the song need it. For those who don't know Byrd's
guitar shredding, here are the elements that made him famous: fast scales,
arpeggios, sweep picking, neoclassical runs and the use of harmonic minor
scales and Phrygian modes. There is a certain influence of seventies progressive
rock in this album, specially on the vocals parts (some Yes in parts of
"Nevermore" but darker) and certain Yngwie Malmsteen shades
in Byrd's playing too. There is in this recording also a beautiful instrumental
called "Avianti Suite Op. 1 Nº63 with synthesized strings and
Byrd's tastefully playing along. My favorite tracks: "W.T.O. (We
Took Over)", "Unity (While You Were Sleeping) and "Paradise
James Byrd is a name I had not heard before even though he has been releasing
albums for a number of years and has at least 5 previous releases including
OCTOGLOMERATE and ATLANTIS RISING. I guess you can put him in the guitar
virtuoso category as he was on Shrapnel records and from what I can tell
from the few clips I have heard from his previous works he was pretty
handy with the ax. Well Mr. Byrd is back with what is essentially a solo
CD. He is joined by vocalist Michael James Flatters and engineer/multi-instrumentalist
Brian Hutchinson. Byrd felt that he needed to reevaluate his musical direction
so on this release he takes the bull by the horns and goes back to his
roots taking a cue from late 70s metal and reinventing his sound. What
he does is lay only one guitar track for the whole CD yet he fills the
sound with up to 60 tracks of symphonic orchestration . The sound he creates
is unique with a 70s flavour. The S/T track kicks off the CD with one
of the better songs on the disc. Flatters proves that he is a capable
vocalist and fits this style of music perfectly. "Dark Heart"
is a slow and plodding track which features lots of interesting guitar
work by Byrd. You can really hear many of the symphonic elements of the
CD much more clearly on this track and feel the atmosphere that they create.
These symphonic arrangements are much different than those of Rhapsody
or Thy Majestie in that they are not bombastic at all and are used more
as colouring within the song. "W.T.O. (We Took Over)" is as
close to bombastic as this Cd gets with Byrd showing off his chops with
some short lived shredding. Byrd throws a curve ball with "Nevermore"
which sounds like it came right out of a Broadway Play! Interesting track.
"All of Me" is a Pink Floydish ballad which fits in which Byrd's
70s philosophy nicely. Byrd closes out the disc with an instrumental called
"Avianti Suite Op.1 No. 63". This is a classically influenced
piece that Byrd plays on electric guitar. This CD certainly doesnt
sound a hell of a lot like anything else out there right now. That being
said it suffers from a selection of songs that begin to sound the same
as they are played one after the other. Byrd can obviously rip on the
guitar so I wonder why he didnt let go on this CD on at least a
couple of tracks. It would have helped to break up the mid tempo pace
of the disc. As it is Byrd does succeed in making a unique sounding CD
that pays homage to the sounds of the 70s.
Review by Rick
Another very well produced, written and executed album from guitarist
James Byrd. James wrote, produced, played guitar and sung on this album,
which is really going to hit the spot with fans of progressive and symphonic
music. The album title is subtitled "Symphonic metal for the new
age" and that's certainly true. Although I think the use of the word
metal could have been substituted for rock, as while this is definitely
a rocking guitar driven album, it's not metal by any stretch. This is
a European hard rock album, in the bombastic symphonic/progressive style
of such luminaries as Styx, Queen and Dream Theater, with a certain heavy
guitar fest style a la Yngwie Malmsteen. Progressive and European hard
rock fans will get the most out of this CD. It's a fine example of the
genre and a great example of complex song writing and guitar orchestration.
One of the better releases of the guitar shred genre. Overall 81% Review
by Andrew McNiece
RAINBOW FLAMES METAL DOMAIN REVIEWS
James Byrd is no stranger to innovation. He helped revolutionize the metal
world with his creation of the 'light' power metal disc, Fifth Angel at
the dawn of the 1980s, which re-aligned the foundations for the fledging
genre and allowed the bands that followed in the wake of the wings of
the 'Angel to take flight in a different direction than what would have
been possible prior to the laying down of these preliminary blueprints.
Byrd has also made improvements in guitar design, holding many patents
for his accomplishments. Now James has set out to sweep the metal industry
off its feet again with a disc that has been hailed over the past year
or so as being the one to blow listeners away with "Symphonic Metal
for the New Age" and give new meaning to the term guitar hero....
Which leads us to the outstanding fact of the album: Byrd's guitar playing
simply cannot be faulted. His work on this album is furious, precise and
steeped in emotion, just the way the fret lovers want it. Similar to Yngwie
but dare I say it - several steps ahead of the former God of Guitar. Yngwie
better watch out, for James is quite close to claiming this title for
himself. "Flying Beyond the 9" contains some of the most delicious
riffs and solos of Byrd's career, and with that crystal production job
that is almost to the level of audiophile-dom makes it so much sweeter
to partake in. However his compositions are really not that revolutionary
in its use of a full blown orchestra. Anyone who has turned an ear towards
the more technical and involving aspects of power metal will have heard
discs that are more theatrical, have bigger more boisterous sounding orchestras
backing them or hold within their tome-like lyrical booklets stories that
provoke thought and further contemplation. Yet it seems that none of these
attention catching elements used extensively in metal of today, were a
part of Byrd's artistic vision for the finished incarnation of his metallic
product, making "Flying Beyond the 9's" 'catches' curiously
compelling. Combining metal with orchestras is nothing new, however combining
early Yngwie influenced metal... the dark foreboding stuff from the beginning
of his career such as anything from "Rising Force" or "Marching
Out"... with pompous orchestrations is a new one, and those that
came for the show simply for the promise of something new and original
will also be rewarded tenfold. Byrd has tempered a large variety of sounds
simply to be combined with some of the darkest, frenzied neo-classical
overtones that have been heard in ages. The result is a breathtaking blend
of sharp grooves, mind boggling orchestrated sections and even a composition
that features none of Byrd's guitar at all...luckily Byrd and crew manage
to pull it all off with a confident level of finesse. His 'crew' being
nothing more than two other members of the byrdhouse, producer/keyboardist/drummer/all-around-musician
Brian Hutchinson and the pipes that bring the written concepts to an audible
form, Michael Flatters. Hutchinson has many shoes to fill yet does each
job extremely well and his invaluable impact on the disc is especially
noted in his bringing to the table a rock solid production job that when
compared to the nightmarish sound from Byrd's previous releases (which
none of these producing mishaps he had any control over whatsoever) makes
this sound fabulous. Michael on the other hand is a mixed bag. Flatters
is a decent vocalist overall. His tone is good and his abilities are not
to be questioned especially when referenced back to some of the acrobatics
he performs on this disc, yet he lacks the individuality that separates
the great from the good. Think of him as a mild Michael Vescera, only
lacking Mike's positive conviction and stirring emotion. But when he's
good, Flatters can blow you away when you least expect it.
1. FLYING BEYOND THE 9 [4.20] The
opening track is everything expected of an ear catching opener, a sweeping
epic piece that slams you right between the eyes. A bold statement that
beckons one to look deeper into its depths to find all the little nuances
Byrd has tucked away like Easter eggs to be gradually uncovered upon multiple
listens by the astute observer that the casual listener will overlook
when being overwhelmed by the cascades of unrelenting sound. The orchestra
is in its full blown glory with James shredding away with enthusiasm and
Flatters carrying out his vocal duties admirably. Nearly a slice of sweet
perfection, only coming up short in the rhythm section which is a little
too 'light' for this kind of forceful fare.
2. DARK HEART [5.02] A gorgeous lighthearted
opening of fleet flying guitar conceals a magnitude of sorrow behind a
face of searing pain. The chorus is left free enough to breathe, the dark
carefully choreographed heavy handed sections lumber along while keeping
a majestic aire. Everyone wants to know about the solo right? Well...
it's part Fifth Angel part new-Byrd and all-around a short blistering
bit that is neo-classical bliss. "All's well that ends...in our dark
hearts!" My love over pours for this slithering dark kissed track
with its amazingly addictive chorus.
3. W.T.O. [WE TOOK OVER] [4.59] Another
sing-along that seems like it came from an era gone by, yet fresh and
devoid of the staleness that seems to snuff the originality out of reworked
parts from the past. An orchestrated blitz overtakes this track, exploding
behind the chorus and other key parts, giving it an overall full, warmly
rounded sound. And the solo... Byrd solidifies the fact that he's one
of the few guitarists left that truly deserves the term 'guitar hero'.
What magnificent beauty and electrical fireworks that continue on even
as the rest of the band is ushered back into the mix. This song, the theme
which is the takeover of the World Trade Organization, is like a snowball
rolling on its way to hell, building in size and magnitude throughout
its journey until it comes to a fiery finish, vaporizing into nothing
upon its final contact.
4. NEVERMORE [5.12] Sweet groove machine
take me home.... Flatters is beginning to grow on me slowly as the neighbors
upstairs are letting me know the stereo has reached the maximum level
that they will tolerate at this hour...anyhow this song describes the
dog eat dog world of the record industry and musically it embodies the
shady slinkiness the lyrics are outlining rather pointedly. Got to love
the explosive...shut the door rather loudly...ending and Flatters singing
to himself in various tones of deep rooted disgust. "On a silver
string of sorrow flown, reaping harvests not your own, you never learn
this is war."
5. EVERYTHING TO ME [6.22] This is
what Yngwie *should* sound like these days but alas... we all know that
tragic story by now. James' guitar is so huge and round sounding that
it feels like you could reach out and touch each note as they whiz through
the speakers. Unique drumming and twisting song structures give it a slight
progressive feeling, in fact a few sections bring back memories of a few
choice moments from Queensrÿche's "Empire", including the
over-the-top commercial prog feel radiating from this particularly well
6. UNITY [WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING]
[6.00] Fantastically performed guitar opens the song on a whisperingly
haunting note with phantom pricked background embellishments. The rhythm
riffing is tough and unforgiving in its humble beginnings. The chorus
aims for the sky and takes us there, sending us through rainbow rings
and other otherworldly things before flittering in for a smooth landing
into the next verses or the supernaturally gritty solo that edges into
pristine cleanliness before all is said and done. Very spiritual both
lyrically and musically and containing some awesome lyric bits that are
built into greatness by Flatters in his most shining moments: "Sun
burst upon the velvet deep within." which is sung straight from the
heart and sounds simply terrific with that infectious rhythmic riff skipping
joyously in the backdrop.
7. PARADISE TONIGHT [5.05] Harmonized
vocals open in a classic 80s fashion then here comes the funkified bass
that gleefully wipes away the nostalgic feel. The rest of the song feels
very simiiar to "Unity" but with more of a huge European AOR
bombastic slant than the wind riding atmosphere from the previous track.
Also of note is the extensive use of non traditional metal instruments
that set it apart from the legions of material in this genre. The horn
enhanced ending should be given special attention since its so over the
top you just gotta love it!
8. ALL OF ME [5.00] The much talked
about guitar-less track, is in fact an absolutely magnificent ballad-esque
song that has the ability to reduce the listener to tears within its first
few moments. Voices swirl in and out, difficult to pinpoint and gone in
such a flurry of distortion its nearly impossible to understand what they
are saying. This reminds me heavily of some of Dream Theater's vocal bits
used in their songs such as the tragic "Space Dye Vest". Powerfully
sparse...piano, voice and little else to carry Byrd's creation throughout
the majority of its journey. Darkly delicate... the gossamer winged dragonfly
transforms into a black winged raven right before your eyes leaving a
whirl wind of ink coloured feathers in its path. Very similar to the acoustic
bent theatrics of Savatage mixed with the crushing sentiments of the already
mentioned "SDV", with Flatters coming across as a strange melting
pot of the sneering tilts of Jon Oliva and the operatic catch of Geoff
Tate. "And if you find you're self-aware and knowing what it means,
settle in the wiring box and sleep to silent screams."
9. AVIANTI SUITE [4.15] This is Byrd's
own "Black Star". Really, can't you hear the similarities? It
embodies the spirit of the fallen star while taking its own flight path.
Careening through silent sections, soft symphonic beauty, and a touch
of medieval magic.. but leaves the stage set for one to come to their
own conclusions of this instrumental trip through the listener's imagination.
The guitar dances and twirls confidently on the dance floor, taking on
all comers one by one, leaving the impression that truly it is the Lord
of the Dance, bowing out gracefully for a quiet closing.
Even with such lofty expectations
resting upon its shoulders, when approaching "Flying Beyond the 9"
with an open mind, it manages to impress even the most jaded. However
those that come in search for a sequel to any of his previous works might
go away with the seed of disappointment in their heart, for this is the
beginning of a new career and sound for James Byrd and while it references
back upon his pools of past material and inspirations, it is a totally
different animal from his albums of yore. The drawbacks are few but include
some over repetitive lyrics and the fact that Michael could use a little
more refining before he breaks into the upper echelon of vocalists. Right
now he's above average and handles a few of these songs with a delightful
uniqueness, most notably the various tones used for "W.T.O.",
but overall comes across a little too bland and generic. However by the
end of the album he begins to hit his stride with a couple of real winners.
Byrd must be commended for his superb songwriting and even more so for
his magical touch on the guitar. He is truly a wizard of the instrument,
every note is an inspiration. Axe fanatics, what are you waiting for?
This one was made just for you.
RATING 9.2 Review by Alanna Evans.
The somewhat obtusely titled Flying Beyond The 9' is the latest venture
from former Fifth Angel guitarist James Byrd. With such a tangential handle,
I was half expecting another instrumental workout in a similar vein to
his Octoglomerate' or Son Of Man' releases, but no, save for one such
track tagged onto the end, this is a full blooded vocal effort. Since
leaving Fifth Angel, his output has been kind of sporadic but consistent,
both Atlantis Rising albums having their moments, although to these ears
it was the phenomenal The Apocalypse Chime' released under the James Byrd
Group name that took top honours - does anyone recall the highly explosive
dynamics of awesome lead track 'Bosnia'?
Operating as a three piece, aside from the guitar virtuoso himself, Byrd
also features vocalist Michael James Flatters and multi-instrumentalist
Brian Hutchinson (keyboards, bass, drums, etc.). Produced and conceived
by James Byrd, it's no real surprise to learn that Flying Beyond The 9'
has a real neo-classical slant to it, the masters spiralling lead breaks
highly reminiscent of Malmsteen at times. That said, this isn't really
what you'd call an atypical neo-classical metal album at all, the songs
in the main having a slightly fresher less morose approach. Furthermore,
the multi-layered vocal harmonies also give it more of a baroque choral
appeal - kind of Symphony X or Artension lite if you will.
Byrd's prowess as a technician par excellence has never really been in
serious doubt, and whilst his songwriting talents don't always quite scale
the same dizzying heights, overall he proves to be well above average
in his chose genre. Obviously, his fluid runs and tasteful chops are pretty
prominent throughout Flying Beyond The 9', but they're by no means dominantly
oppressive. Hutchinson's decisive keyboard contributions also add several
extra dimensions to the already atmospheric sound, and as for Flatters,
his higher register vocals offer the sort of focal point fans of this
particular genre seem to thrive upon.
Musically speaking, the harmony vocals and delicate keyboard orchestration
give this a more upbeat, less weighty feel, hinting back to some of the
North American pomp greats of the late 70's whilst laying down a back
line bedrock that could grace any Malmsteen/Nation/Stormwind album. The
funky shuffle of 'Nevermore' is perhaps the closest overall in feel to
the last Atlantis Rising effort, it's pompous delivery kinda Malmsteen
meets Broadway - a little disconcerting at first, yet strangely infectious
after a while.
Elsewhere, it's quite an eclectic mix of subtle tempo changes and delicately
balanced orchestration, all served up with liberal sprinklings of Byrd's
pompously overblown guitar flurries. 'Paradise Tonight' is a bouncy, Malmsteen-esque
pop rocker with a chorus that would've stood a good chance of denting
the charts a few years back; whilst 'All Of Me (An Allegory)' on the other
hand is a much slower, mood driven, reflective piece which again has real
Broadway overtones. Then there's opener 'Flying Beyond The 9' with it's
punchy rhythm and crescendo riddled choruses (touches of Fifth Angel and
Styx); the brooding 'Everything To Me' which is as close to that classic
Malmsteen sound as this gets; the intense 'Dark Heart' which is a great
amalgam of Artension and Royal Hunt; and finally the forthright bombast
of the deliciously overblown 'W.T.O.'.
At first, the marriage of neo-classical, pomp and progressive hard rock
looked an uneasy one, but after a while something just clicked and everything
snapped into place. A most surprising and stimulating release - more please!
8/10 Dave Cockett
MONSTERS WORLD OF METAL
This is the same guy Yngwie Malmsteen referred to as the most exciting,
European-sounding guitarist hes heard in many years. The same-axe
slinger who was featured in Guitar magazines 1996 The Ten
Best Guitarists Youve Never Heard Of article. It is no wonder
Malmsteen has praised him so. Not so much for his neo-classical arrangements,
as you hear in the track AVIANTI SUITE Op. 1 No. 63, but for
the emotional melodies James Byrd is capable of displaying. Sure Malmsteen
must love him for what he might find on PARADISE TONIGHT,
a song that could have easily been titled Heaven Tonight,
where the keyboards are a tad happy and 80s oriented. Then again
it could be the fact it is 50%(to the least) glammy. Despite the immense
influence, tone and playing style similarities to Yngwie Malmsteen (but
then again who isnt right?) Byrd is unique in his own way as well.
Take for instance the cd cover, which is deceiving of what one might expect.
Dont expect Byrd to be the one taking the spotlight in this band.
On the contrary, he is mostly invisible in the album and doesnt
worry much about showing off, on the exception when the solos of course
are concerned. Then again that leaves well enough room for the rest of
the band to go about their business and doing it well. Take for instance
the vocals. They are top notch as you can hear the great intro melodies
on FLYING BEYOND THE 9, or in the sexy grooves of DARKHEART.
Everyone knows how and when to put the right rhythms within the music
parts. As it turns out I am not comparing this CD to his previous material
James Byrds Atlantis Rising, his first instrumental album Octoglomerate,
or to the Atlantis Rising name Crimes of Virtuosity for I
am not familiar with. What I am familiar with is the fact that all arrangements
are carefully picked and placed and some of them Fifth Angel melodies
are noticeable. With the releases good sound and production, you
will be taken back to hear many of Byrds influences and many of
the 80s bands. The songs are mid-tempoed in a heavy and melodic
rock zone, which is in some places a little too soft for my likes but
catchy and well balanced musically. In all it is a good album that sounds
great and feels nice as well.
HEAVY METAL RESOURCE
James Byrd releases to us an album of symphonic power metal. Some may
be familiar with James from his days with Fifth Angel. He has also done
some projects using his name like James Byrd's Atlantis Rising as well
as the James Byrd group. In sound, he reminds me a lot of Yngwie Malmsteen.
His compositions are a bit more accessible than Yngwie's but just as technical
at times. Lot's of melody flowing from each track. As mentioned before,
the music has a large amount of melody, but does have some intensity as
well. There is also a majestic feel as well. James' approach to music
is a bit different than the melodic power metal being released by a lot
of the European scene. His music is much slower in tempo, but comes across
very dynamic. Consistency is also one of his attributes. The music on
the album is flavored the same throughout yet still attaining it's own
personality. Tracks that I dig include 'Everything to me', 'Paradise tonight',
'Flying beyond the 9', the visual 'All Of Me (an allegory)', and 'Nevermore'.
Now I do like them all, but find these as my favorites. There is a very
good balance of keyboards, guitars, and low end throughout. Vocals are
very good and mix with the tracks well. This album consumed some time
in the making and stands well up against similar artists in style. Symphonic
power metal it is without a doubt. Think about the term Symhonic. Not
necessarily using a symphony, but created a very large sound with a lot
of depth. That is what this album gives you. You also get consistency
from start to finish. James can be proud of his accomplishment with this
release. It has the major leagues feel and raises his status even higher
than it was. Very nicely done!
Guitarist James Byrd has a long history behind them. It all started in
the early 70s when he saw and heard Jimi Hendrix playing the National
anthem on Woodstock as shown on TV, he knew he had to pick up a guitar
and carry it with him through the rest of his life. In the late 70s and
early 80s he played in various bands playing covers of bands like UFO
and SCORPIONS. In the 80s he formed a band called FIFTH ANGEL, a melodic
heavy rockband that released two albums, but James can only be heard on
the band's debut. Nevertheless, after leaving that band, James has been
making solo-records every now and then. The best one is definitely his
JAMES BYRD'S ATLANTIS RISING from over 10 years ago, a great melodic rockalbum
a la SCORPIONS. The other albums are mainly instrumental, but the new
CD of this wonderful guitarist is a step into a new direction. 'Flying
behind the 9' is a great progressive melodic Hard Rockalbum in the style
of bands like NATION, ELEGY, old PRIME TIME, ROYAL HUNT
of the band is completed with the excellent singer Michael James Flatters
and keyboardplayer/bassist/drummer Brian Hutchinson. There are 9 songs
on the CD and it's a pleasure to listen to all of them, because not a
single track is average, this is a high quality rockalbum. My favourites
are "Flying behind the 9" (good progressive melodic hardrock
with a catchy chorus and many harmonyvocals), "We took over"
(midtempo melodic HR with cool keys) and "Paradise tonight"
(great song, very melodic with a very catchy chorus). If you're into progressive
melodic heavy rock, then do check out the new release of guitarist James
Rating: 8/10 (Review by Gabor Kleinbloesem)
I compare this with Malmsteen and this is so much better. The same symphonic
way of writing music, but in Byrds case it's the compositions thats most
important, and not just the guitarwork. Some parts of this album is awesome.
Don't you dare to miss this one.
Rating 7/10 (Review by Teddy Jonasson)
Here's a guitarist who has nothing to prove and enough sense to use his
guitar wisely. This album could easily have been buried under layer upon
layer of guitar tracks, but it's not. The guitar tracks that are on this
album are necessary, but don't go beyond that. Which is a good thing,
because the guitar tracks on this album are incredible! Flying Beyond
the 9 is an album which is skilfully played and well produced. A single
listen is not enough. As its title implies, it's Symphonic Metal, but
without the traditional riff-bashing you often hear in this kind of music.
I couldn't spend a lot of time comparing his guitar licks as they are
rather unique. The first name that comes to mind is, obviously, Malmsteen,
but, in my opinion, he is much less inclined to showing-off (note: when
you can play like Malmsteen, there's nothing wrong with showing off) than
to sticking to techniques which actually improve the sound of the songs.
The music has a clean bite to it and a powerful edge. It's in no way related
to thrash metal: you can actually hear and understand the vocals very
well. All instruments are highly present and in their appropriate place.
The final track, Avianti Suite, is a nice classical piece which is beautifully
executed. Overall, I rate this album very highly and recommend it strongly.
It would also make a great gift to a guitarist who wishes to progress.
A-J Charron 2002-01-12
"Symphonic metal for the new age" - this is the descriptor underneath
the title on the CD booklet. It's a very good description and I will agree
with it, although it is missing the fact that the word "neo-classical"
should be inserted after "symphonic" to make it just about exactly
what this band / project sounds like. James Byrd leads the way with his
neo-classically influenced style that certainly reminds of Malmsteen,
but Byrd takes the entire musical sound into a slightly different direction
by orchestrating most of the music, and relying less on the speedy, double
bass-led styles that put most into the Malmsteen category and that might
otherwise doom a band. Byrd is quite the guitar master, easily holding
his own and being able to make a loud statement with his guitar-playing
abilities, but instead of making it a show, he adds in a great vocalist
who is capable of layering tons of harmonies to make this sound like a
huge interpretation of some Yes / Queen / vocal melodies. Without the
harmonies, Michael James Flatters is quite the pleasant / powerful / melodic
singer who blasts effortlessly through the maze of symphonies and guitar
pyrotechnics and sounds completely comfortable surrounded by such epic
sounds. Brian Hutchinson fills out the rest of the band by playing everything
else on the disc. Of note is the nice display of dramatic keyboards, which
really make this disc shine sonically. Throw in a superb production and
you have basically a great, symphonic, epic, neo-classically influenced
piece of music that is quite a surprise given the many attempts to make
something different of this genre. Byrd and Hutchinson are also responsible
for the great production, which tells me that they have been around for
quite some time to be able to write, play and produce such a bombastic
piece. Overall, this is a nicely performed piece of symphonic metal that
should please most fans of the style that want something more than just
the casual passing attempt at neo-classical metal.
Reviewed by: Larry Daglieri, March 2002
James Byrd, a musician who actually deserves the title "Guitar Hero".
"Flying Beyond The 9" in my opinion is ahead of its time, combining
a mixture of neo-classical and melodic progressive rock to create a sound
very unique. The guitar work is awesome, probably some of the best guitar
work of the last 5 years. James Byrd has already proved himself to be
a musical genius with previous releases but "flying beyond the 9"
just makes your jaw drop! The keyboards are easily noticeable but not
over done. The vocals are spectacular and extremely melodic. One of the
best releases of recent times. 95% Best Tracks: "Everything To Me",
"Paradise Tonight", "W.T.ORENGTH" (We Took Over).
As well as power metal, guitar based hardrock seem to be having quite
a comeback these days. Åland record company Lion Music stands at
the forefront, bringing us fresh, yet heavily 70's/80's inspired, hardrock.
James Byrd is no exception to that rule. Despite clear influences from
various 70's bands he has managed to create something quite exiting and
fresh. His own take on this particular style has something theatrical
over it, more bombastic and grand than his style-mates. 'Flying Beyond
the 9' sounds very Malmsteen-ish in it's approach, but also much more
exiting than anything Mr. Yngwie has released in the last 10-15 years.
If you're into orchestrated metal, with lots of guitar solos, this is
a must have for you. Singer Michael James Flatters deserves extra credit
for his vocal performance...
Touting itself as "symphonic metal for the new age," Byrd's
Flying Beyond the 9 combines traditional heavy metal guitar riffs with
the timeless expression of a classical orchestra. Featuring guitar virtuoso
James Byrd, the album lives up to its self-proclaimed billing, taking
the listener on a sonic journey few rock/metal bands have been able to
successfully create. Nine tracks in total, Flying Beyond the 9 is a mixture
of aggressive and mid-tempo offerings, all carefully crafted to fit within
an orchestral background. Introducing Michael James Flatters on vocals,
and Brian Hutchinson on keyboards, bass, and drums, the album leads off
with the title track, "Flying Beyond the 9," featuring soaring
vocal lines and numerous tempo changes that sets an uplifitng tone for
the rest of the record. Utilization of vocal harmonizing is a large part
of the album's chemistry, particularly on the mid-tempo ballad "Everything
to Me," which showcases the vocal range of Flatters. Considering
Byrd is one of the few guitarists to be complimented and endorsed by the
legendary Yngwie Malmsteen, one would expect his extraordinary playing
skills to be the focal point of the record. While certainly making an
impact, particularly on "Unity," and "Avianti Suite Op.
1 No. 63," Byrd adapts his style to mesh with the record's artistic
vibe. A testimony to his development as a songwriter, Byrd's guitars compliment
the orchestra, rather than standing apart from it, giving the record a
majestic sound. Critics may point out that the songs on Flying Beyond
the 9 lack any distinguishing aspects from each other, and sound somewhat
similar. However, while that is a somewhat accurate observation, the tracks
were written to flow around an accompanying symphony and required a sonic
continuity in order to properly achieve that goal. Clearly, the album
is not one of multiple rock radio singles, but the sum of its parts is
a noteworthy musical achievement. For those fans intrigued by the concept
of Metallica's S&M release of 1999, but dissapointed in the result,
Flying Beyond the 9 may be just the album you've been searching for.
Brian J. Heaton
In my review of The Reign Of Terror's SACRED GROUND last week, I said
guitarist Joe Stump displays his "rather large affinity for all things
Malmsteen" on the album. Well, he's been one-upped in that department
by James Byrd (Fifth Angel) on this puppy. I know Byrd (the man) has done
neoclassical metal in the past, and he's even gotten the thumb's up from
Yngwie himself, so the subtitle of this album--"Symphonic Metal For
The New Age"--had me expecting a combination of Yngwie's recent CONCERTO
SUITE FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA and more typical neoclassical
metal. The results? Ehhh... If that Reign Of Terror album apes Yngwie's
more bombastic, over-the-top fire, then FLYING BEYOND THE 9 reflects his
pompier, more delicate side. You can't deny the talents of Byrd or his
vocalist, Machael James Flatters (who sounds like about 70% Goran Edman,
30% Mark Boals--both Malmsteen vocalists) but I can't shake the feeling
that this album just wasn't finished. The sound is thin in places, especially
with the drums (or, more specifically, the cymbals), and much of the orchestration
is buried in the mix, so that bold album subtitle isn't really backed
up. Many of the songs feature time and tempo changes, and the parts just
don't always blend well. Case in point: the opening title track, which
is a patchwork assembly of instrumental sections, tempos, super sweet
vocals, piano, and licks. The rest of the songs have several intro solos
and plenty of Malmsteenian neoclassical guitar bursts, but they really
only gel nicely in a few tracks, like the starts-as-a-weepy-ballad-but-gets-better
"Everything To Me" and its followers "Unity (While You
Were Sleeping)" and "Paradise Tonight." The latter two
are still both sorta uneven, and they have these jarring bits of God-awful
trumpeting keyboards... The last track, "Avianti Suite Op. 1 No.
63," finally met my expectations, as it's an instrumental mixing
electric guitar and orchestration, with just a bit of rock drumming at
the end. I'm not sure where I'm going with this review--that's the feeling
the album inspires--because while there is prodigious talent and some
catchy/memorable melodies on display, in total everything's just...OK.
BYRD is a new project of ex.FIFTH ANGEL/ATLANTIS
RISING's lead guitarist, James Byrd. This band also features guest musicians
like Brian Hutchison (keyboard/bass/drums/backing vocals) and Michael
James Flatters (lead vocals). James Byrd himself has conitunously been
making quality music since 1980s until nowadays through 90s. "Flying
Beyond The 9" album seems to be a continuation of his endeavors for
melodic neo-classical hard rock/metal. What impresses me mostly is emotional
guitar playings and occasional hot-burning guitar shreds of James Byrd
himself on this album. His latest new album, Flying Beyond The 9, is mostly
vocal-oriented melodic hard rock with elements of symphonic metal touch,
bit of AOR-ness which sometimes ventured into West-Coast catchier moments
reminding me of Beach Boys on the title track for one of exceptions, and
occupying neo-classical atmospheres on some songs. Perhaps, people who
wish James Byrd to play the style of earlier dramatic metal music a la
FIFTH ANGEL and ATLANTIS RISING might have mixed feeling about Flying
Beyond The 9. In the beginning, I expected this album sounds kind of close
to ATLANTIS RISING, JAMES BYRD GROUP, and his previous solo work including
A Son of Man. But obviously new offering has different sounds from any
other work he has done. His guitar playing is always tasty and emotional
with great energy. Michael James Flatters is really fantastic singer who
is able to sing comfortably and powerful from middium ranges to higher
ranges (If my memory is correct, he had worked as a lead vocalist of HEIR
APPARENT). Keyboard playings by Brian Hutchinson support James Byrd to
create background foundation to enhance symphonic and melodic atmospheres
on this album. Some parts of the album remind me a bit of symphonic metal
tastes like ROYAL HUNT, esp., keyboard sounds and string patches. Nevertheless,
Brian Hutchinson never let loose his skills irrelevantly, so do not expect
him play like Andre Andersen of ROYAL HUNT even though I mentioned the
name like ROYAL HUNT. Basically, entire music of Flying Beyond The 9 gives
me the impression of a bit laid back and relaxed feeling of neo-classical
flavored melodic hard rock without going too much complex, faster &
high energy shred sounds, and technical ensemble. On the other hand, It
is well orchestrated and arranged with occasional burning hot guitar attacks
in the control by James Byrd to sound symphonic enough. My favorite tracks
are "Dark Heart", "Avianti Suite Op.1 No.63" reminds
me of fine Yngwie-style tune, "W.T.O.(We Took Over)" which sounds
a bit of progressive and epic, and "Nevermore" (intro part of
organ sounds on this tune is pretty nice and gothic).