Nottingham legends, Beyond Grace, are one of the most underrated death metal acts in Britain. All four of the current members played together in the predecessor band, Threnody, as early as 2005, and persevered through the group’s second incarnation under the name of Bloodguard. Their big break came in 2021, when Prosthetic Records released the Beyond Grace sophomore album, Our Kingdom Undone. Scream Blast Repeat praised the album and observed that ‘it’s rare we get death metal with such a perspicacious grasp of the big political issues of the age, even if Beyond Grace sometimes fall into cliché and conspiracy theory.’ The band split with Prosthetic Records this year for reasons unknown and decided to go it alone for their new material. Their first post-label release is instalment number one of a three-part series of EPs that will form a future LP called Welcome to the New Dark Ages.
You can’t fault this group’s ambition. Nor can you be unaffected by their ugly view of the world. An opening tremolo note aches like the side incision of a fingernail in ‘The Burning Season’ as a barbarous second guitar adds time and shape to it with chugging open-string palm mutes. The vocals growl like the stomach of a ravenous t-rex. Listen how the drop-tunings add an extra layer of muscle and menace to the riffing. There’s no opportunity to establish an equilibrium with this music. Blast beats motor along as if programmed by an emergency power supply. A succession of snarled words resonates in a cleaner pitch of delivery at 02:50 before the guitarists let loose with a djent-death metal hybrid of chords that could blow the moss off the Hebrides cliffs. The slowdown at the end is heavier than a televised episode of The World at War. Beyond Grace are angry at the contrived culture wars and manipulation of thought tearing through western civilisation. “Banning books and burning pages / A little knowledge is a dangerous thing / Something to be feared / And something to be hated / This is how the new dark age begins.”
‘Buyer’s Remorse’ is how you pick the strings of your low-tuned guitar with the fastest rhythmic velocity. The chord formations among this assault are nasty enough to splash you in the face like a dirt puddle. A sinister voice prophesises the just rewards for a human civilisation that never learns from its mistakes. See if you can reach for a faint opening of light to extricate yourself from this wretched abyss – you can’t. Paralysis is the best you can hope for in your mode of survival. The middle-eight breakdown lays on the thick grooves like an excessive use of force in a self-defence situation. How do Tim Yearsley and Chris Morley combine colourful resonance with dissonance in the lead guitar section?
The action is chaotic and violent on this EP, like the realities of war. Clearly, the band enjoy their Meshuggah and Decapitated records as much as their dystopian novels. ‘Misinfodemic’ is as cynical as its song title suggests. Social media did not even exist when these four musicians started their journey in 2005. Here, guitars slide into place like an artillery gun with uninterrupted supplies of ammunition. How do the two axemen fret abstract chords among this melee of riffing. The reset at 02:10 introduces a whispered contemplation for you to ponder. And ponder you shall in this rare moment of calm.
Part one of Welcome to the New Dark Ages promises to be an exciting new chapter in the band’s history. Ending with a cover of Peter Gabriel’s 1977 classic, ‘Here Comes the Flood’, shows that Beyond Grace are not afraid to look outside the box for inspiration. Their Nottingham contemporaries in Underdark and Antre will applaud this new direction, and so should you.
Release Date: 24/11/2023
Record Label: Self-released
Standout tracks: The Burning Season; Buyer’s Remorse
Suggested Further Listening: Hadal Maw – Oblique Order EP (2021), Aeffect – Theory of Mind (2023), Dagtum – Revered Decadence (2021)