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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

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!

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!

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 top notch.

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.
RATING 10/10

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 Byrd’s 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 you’re 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 1980’s moving on to his Fifth Angel days to his all out shred albums on Shrapnel Records, to his current style. James’s 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. James’s backing leads and rhythms really add a lot of texture to this song. 03:09 starts the main lead section. It’s 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. James’s 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. It’s 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, it’s 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 Byrd’s 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 he’s left a 3rd degree burn on you! It’s 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 Byrd’s 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 Byrd’s 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.. :)
Eef Vink


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 Tonight".

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 doesn’t 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 didn’t 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

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 crafted track.

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

This is the same guy Yngwie Malmsteen referred to as “the most exciting, European-sounding guitarist he’s heard in many years”. The same-axe slinger who was featured in Guitar magazine’s 1996 “The Ten Best Guitarists You’ve 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 80’s 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 isn’t right?) Byrd is unique in his own way as well. Take for instance the cd cover, which is deceiving of what one might expect. Don’t expect Byrd to be the one taking the spotlight in this band. On the contrary, he is mostly invisible in the album and doesn’t 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 Byrd’s 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 release’s good sound and production, you will be taken back to hear many of Byrd’s influences and many of the 80’s 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.

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… The line-up 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 Byrd.
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. - Tim

PILGRIM'S WORLD [http://www.hamanaka.com/pilgrim2/progmetal/bpage.htm]
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).


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