One of the greatest things about music it’s often a by-product of the surroundings and their influences on the creators. Just as hip-hop sprang from the funding policy of reducing the importance of the musical curriculum from the school system, thus denying access to the instruments which helped shape the proud African American Heritage that spawned blues, so death metal was vomited forth in the middle of the eighties out of frustration and fury.
Playing hard and faster than thrash, death metal has seen many internal evolutions over the decades as it pushed the boundaries and the arrival of the UK’s Beyond Grace, on the renowned Prosthetic Records label for their sophomore album, sees the band sharpening their sound to make the step to a bigger stage and deliver their most accomplished effort yet.
Our Kingdom Undone not only builds on the groundwork laid by their 2017 debut, the well-received Seekers, it has been directly influenced by the political and social unrest that has gripped the world during the past few years. As the UK toiled under the heat and social exclusion of 2020, the Nottingham based five piece were using their own anger and frustration to create a cathartic, savage scream that not only channels raw power, but combines it with deft technical and ambitious song writing.
The cassette tape starting sounds of Dark Forest Doctrine almost immediately gives way to thumping drums, rich tones and guttural vocals in a classic death metal style that includes staccato riffing and speed rushes topped off by gargling screaming courtesy of vocalist Andy Walmsley. Very much students of the game, Our Kingdom Undone, as an album, pulls from the past with cues from classic Obituary/Autopsy style death metal perfected by some of the biggest hitters in the genre, but brings it up to date with a modern edge and production that even nods at times to a more tech metal influence and swirling synth.
This lends Beyond Grace a varied style that keeps your attention rather than eight tracks of bludgeoning, breakneck ferocity. Naturally, you want the band to go for the jugular and bring the violence, but they’ve mastered the ebbed flow of suspense and the understanding that in order for the truly savage parts to make the impact, they need to sit alongside moments of restraint. As such they conjure rich atmosphere where they ease back on the speed and build upon steady, precision led brutality.
Beyond Grace have delivered a healthy blast of savagery that should tickle the palette of all death metal aficionados…
Death metal relies on first class musicianship to execute the relentless churning noise and this evident on the politically charged Barmecide Feast which features intricate chord progressions, or the shifting dynamics of Hive Mind that’s elevated further by the intricate and mesmerising solo from lead guitarist Tim Yearsley. The band’s historical awareness does them credit as they channel the likes of Nile on the tribal rhythms and stomp of Factions Speak Louder Than Herds, the death like hooks of Fearmonger and The Price Of Peace delivers taught riffs, cacophonous drumming and seismic low end rumbling.
Littered with samples, Our Kingdom Undone cannot help but feel old school despite the fresh sounding approach, captured by Ian Boult and Tom Hill at Stuck On A Name and Bookhouse studios respectively before the mastering touches of Charles Elliott (Abysmal Dawn). The classic influences on the genre lend the album an air of authority and experience beyond the age of the band and it all builds to the twelve-minute epic closer of the title track.
Signing off in style Our Kingdom Undone employs their tech metal flourishes and an almost doom sensibility to craft the albums finest hour; a complete journey in blast beats, multi-layered vocals that drip with almost blackened edges, before breaking into breathless sprints and then huge near orchestral moments of euphoria. Truly grandiose in scale it rounds off the album in savage majesty before concluding with the sound of a tape ending to bookend the album nicely with the starting sounds.
It’s been a while since I dipped my toes into the death metal pool, but Beyond Grace and earlier this year Australia’s Werewolves have produced albums that have respectfully nodded to the old school and then shredded them with an updated approach. Our Kingdom Undone doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does give the chassis a fresh coat of paint, trick out the wheels with some shiny trims and tune up the engine to breathe new life into a classic. Prosthetic Records rarely put out dud albums in my experience and this proves to be no exception. Beyond Grace have delivered a healthy blast of savagery that should tickle the palette of all death metal aficionados.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden