There are so many bands out there these days that are trying to emulate a certain sound or style or person or band. Trying to copy or come off like a representation of something that they are not, in order to ride a popularity wave or make a quick buck. From Beyond sounds like it just stepped foot out of 1972. Literally. Out of 1972. Is 1972 a great big money maker for a band to try and cop a quick buck off of? Not the last time I checked, which means that this is because they are truly influenced by and paying tribute to a type of music that is really nowhere to be found anymore. On their Facebook page, From Beyond lists “Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, The Misfits, and John Carpenter Soundtracks, Goblin, Rush, and Tangerine Dream” as their influences, and good goddamn if that isn’t just about exactly what they sound like. They are heavily Black Sabbath based (as a matter of fact, I would venture to say that they would be a great band to bet on if there were such a thing as a Black Sabbath sound-alike contest, as long as we are talking classic Sabbath), but have that spacey, psychedelia that you’d expect from Floyd and Hawkwind, which moves you into the faster, more punk-rock type stuff you then get from the Stooges and Misfits. Then there is the early proto-digital sounds that make the Carpenter / Tangerine Dream / Goblin influence make more sense. It seriously is like 1972 got tossed in a blender, and what came out is From Beyond. And damn is that a good milkshake.
Bio (from facebook.com/FromBeyondBand):
Looking to the past to see the future… We are analog, tube, vintage, tape, and psychedelics. We are high, high volume, high gain, and low frequency
Robert McCarthy (Guitar, Vocals, Synthesizers), Dick Beeman (Drums, Vocals), Stephen Finley (Bass), David Grooman (Guitar)
One Year EP
From the opening seconds of “Evil (From Beyond),” the first of four tracks on the ONE YEAR EP, that 70’s horror movie dread comes barreling in. Then a few seconds later, it moves to action/exploitation film: I feel like I’m being chased through the jungle. Then another shift, and it’s all zombie movie, and evil from beyond. From Beyond amazes me in a lot of different ways with their music; obviously their spot-on feeling for a time that has passed is the first thing I notice, but their ability to bring emotion just through the music, before you even get Ozzy-reincarnate on the mic. And just to be clear, I’m not saying this as a bad thing at all: Ozzy was a badass vocalist in this time period, and on some tracks McCarthy sounds literally like his second coming.
However, and nicely so, I think that we’ve got some better lyricism going on here than what Black Sabbath was riding on back in their early days. Let’s not front: we all love “Paranoid” and “Iron Man,” but the lyrics are pretty simple and somewhat rudimentary (though IM does tell a pretty cool story). Much of From Beyond’s lyrics are based on H.P. Lovecraft (so all you geeky horror types take note, there’s lots to pay attention here), as well as a lot based on 70’s and 80’s horror films. There is just a lot of good wordplay and reference going on, as well as that storytelling that you would expect from an 8+ minute long space rock epic song (like “One Year”).
Musically, even down to the recording this is just about perfect for what it is. The fuzz is just fuzzy enough, the distortion just about distorted enough, the vocals are easy to hear and understand, and all the instruments come through clearly (when From Beyond is not going for sludge). OY is just a great example of what can be done without a major label, if you’ve got musicians that really care about making a quality product and a quality project, and are willing to put in the time and effort to really do it right. OY is done right.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed OY. There are lots of bands out there on the “stoner rock” bandwagon, trying to emulate that 70’s big crunchy sound, but there are very few that really bring in the psychedelia nearly as well as From Beyond. That milkshake of bands from before? It’s really an amazing milkshake: it’s got just the right amount of heavy, darkness, crunchy fuzzy drone, blues rock, and some spacey psychedelia to pin it all down. I really like it.
Overall 8 / 10
The Color Out of Space
For their follow up to the OY EP, From Beyond came back with THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE EP, which is more of the same. And I do not say that in a derivative or negative way, it’s more of that awesome goodness that OY brought, but even better by this point. With TCOoS, it sounds that From Beyond has tightened their game up. It might be from more time playing together, it might just be that they came up with some better tracks this time around, or they might just be a continually improving band (oh please let that be it), but this is OY but better.
Opening with “Hexagram,” we’ve got that classic Black Sabbath feel coming back, this time with a heavier focus on the drums than the guitars, and I love the drum work going on in this track. The guitar and bass are heavy and plodding and taking you on this dark ride that the lyrics are explaining, but under it all are the drums, the unrelenting and unfaltering drums that just move this track in a way I hadn’t heard before with From Beyond. With this track, the band again shows its chops with a tempo shift in the bridge that may sound easy, but is just not all that fun to try and do in real life.
We then get another mid-tempo track, “At Midnight (I’ll Steal Your Soul),” where McCarthy sounds distinctly less Ozzy, but still perfect for the style they are bringing. From Beyond really have the “stoner rock” groove worked out; lots of bands are trying to do what they seem to do very easily, and this track is a great example of this… this track would be very comfortable on a Queens of the Stone Age album any day of the week. Up next we get something a bit faster, “The Dead Still Ride,” which brings back that Stooges/Misfits influence from that ultimate milkshake, and again reminds me as a listener how good this band is at telling stories not only in their lyrics (which this one does) but also just in the feeling the music itself.
The epic opus on TCOoS is the 15 minute long title track that ends the EP, and it is just mind-blowing for a unsigned band that’s been putting out music for less than two years. This track really could be a heavier Pink Floyd song, a mash up of Floyd if they invited Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi to sit in on a track. The first 7 or so minutes you’ve got that heavy, slow, menacing feel as you get the story behind the color, and then it digresses into a very Floyd-esque breakdown, and then builds itself back up again. It’s not quite Floyd, as the song does not have those distinct “parts” that Waters was so often know for working into his stuff (if you pay attention listening to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” you can pretty much point out when it moves from one part to another), but it does have that psychedelia, as well as the heaviness that Floyd brought with some of their lesser known tracks like “The Nile Song,” “The Gold It’s In The…,” or parts of “Sheep.” This track just re-affirms the fact that I think From Beyond is just getting better and better, and damn do I hope they play a show in San Antonio so I can go see this performed live.
Overall, TCOoS is actually just a little bit better even than OY. They are both amazing EPs and put together would make a great full length, and here’s hoping that From Beyond will find a label that will take care of their music correctly and give it the release that it deserves. This needs to be heard. Those people out there looking for that more trippy end of stoner rock need to hear this. Those people that love the heavier stuff from 1972 need to hear this. Music lovers in general need to hear this, so let’s get it heard.
Overall 8.5 / 10
FROM BEYOND site: http://www.bandfrombeyond.com/