"Flying Behind the 9" (Lion Music)
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
The cover of "Flying Beyond The 9" describes the music contained therein as 'symphonic metal for the new age' - check it out, it's right there in plan view. Byrd, fronted by guitarist extraordinaire James Byrd, is melodic, symphonic rock in the grand tradition of progressive rock of Kansas, the melody of TNT, and the guitar virtuosity of Yngwie J. Malmsteen. There's certainly not much metal (at least as I define it) on "Flying Beyond The 9" except for the six-string flights of fancy that borders on Yngwie-worship.
Kansas is an obvious reference due to the well-orchestrated and compositional, progressive leanings of "Flying Beyond The 9." The TNT reference, in my mind, comes from the wonderful balance of the music and the vocals; as would be needed on a disc like this, the production rings with clarity throughout. The Malmsteen reference best sums up what I'm hearing is the type of material heard on "Odyssey." The subdued, yet polished, style of the music and vocal crooning of Joe Lynn Turner on "Odyssey" is the most apt description I can think of for "Flying Behind The 9." Also, even though I'm not too familiar with Ritchie Blackmore, I have a funny feeling James Byrd is influenced by Blackmore's deep history and legacy.
The first eight tracks really are all quite similar in that they employ progressive compositions, pleasing melodic musical backdrops, and music fitting for (somewhat) indulgent soloing. Of the eight vocal tracks, "Unity (While You Were Sleeping)" is the most distinctive. The last track, "Avianti Suite Op. 1 No. 63," gets the full symphonic treatment - I doubt there were any unused tracks on the 64-track recorder after this song was finished. It's got a full sound that echoes a symphony and classical influences that seem to be an endless part of James Byrd's musical vocabulary.
In the end this was truly one of the hardest reviews I've had to write. While the level of musicianship is undeniable, it does gravitate to the (unnecessarily) grandiose at times. I find "Flying Behind The 9" enjoyable enough to play on occasion, but I don't think it will be something I seek out unless I am in a peculiar melodic, symphonic rock mood.
Byrd is James Byrd on guitar and backing vocals, Brian Hutchinson on bass, drums, and
keyboards, and Michael Flatters on lead and backing vocals.
For more information visit http://www.jamesbyrd.com or http://www.lionmusic.com.
A classic. This record will kick your ass.
Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.
So-so. You've heard better.
Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.
Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.
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Revised: 28 Feb 2016 12:56:00 -0500.