October 31, 2017

Beyond Grace - Seekers

By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth. Greetings and salutations, friends. Once more, I return from the void that is adult life and parenthood to discuss a particularly appealing and intriguing musical work. Today, we examine Seekers
By Professor D. Grover the XIIIth.

Artwork by Michael Cowell

Greetings and salutations, friends. Once more, I return from the void that is adult life and parenthood to discuss a particularly appealing and intriguing musical work. Today, we examine Seekers, the relatively recent release from Nottingham's own Beyond Grace. I say relatively because Seekers has been out for several months, but I've been otherwise preoccupied and so it has taken me much longer than I'd prefer to work up a proper review.

Beyond Grace are something of a modern-style technical death metal band, although the label itself is unduly restrictive. Technical death metal may be a large part of the foundation of the band's sound, but it's heavily dosed with melodic, progressive, and blackened aspects of death metal. Now, I know what you are likely thinking: there are a lot of bands out there that meld these styles together, and so it gets harder and harder for a band to stand out, so why should you give Beyond Grace your precious listening time? And you are correct, the modern technical/melodic/progressive/blackened death metal scene has become incredibly saturated in the past several years. It's not enough for a band to possess a great deal of technical skill, because there are a hundred other bands full of chaps filling their songs with fleet-fingered arpeggios and mind-melting scales. It's not enough to have a drummer who can change tempos on a dime. It's not enough to have a bassist who can simultaneously underscore the riffs and provide an adventurous counter-melody.

And that brings me to Beyond Grace's true strength, which is their songwriting. They clearly have the elements I just mentioned, like many bands, but those talents are often wasted on disjointed, uninteresting songs that exist more as a collection of technically impressive but ultimately monotonous musicality. Beyond Grace, on the other hand, understand and value the importance of restrained and cohesive songwriting, and that's the true heart of Seekers. There are moments of absolute ferocity, instances of brilliant technicality, but there is always a sense of control, which lets the band take on mid-tempo material effectively, something a lot of technical death metal bands struggle with.

It helps that the album sounds immaculate. Sometimes this can lead to a feeling of sterility, of inhuman mechanality (I'm not sure if that's actually a word, but it is now), but there's a sense of power in Seekers' production that keeps the listener grounded. Vocalist Andy Walmsley alternates deep guttural roars with higher-pitched screams with ease, yet his vocals remain intelligible enough that the lyrics can be understood. Guitarist Tim Yearsley shows a knack for laying down bruising riffs and intoxicating melodies, while bassist Andrew Workman intertwines his own melodies, granting the songs additional depth. The backbone of it all is drummer Ed Gorrod, whose nimble style sees him switching tempos seamlessly while adding texture to the songs with his fills and footwork.

The lyrics are one of the highlights of the album, thanks to the writing of Walmsley. You may know him as Andy Synn, a longtime writer for No Clean Singing, and his work as a writer serve him well, granting his words an intelligence that elevates Seekers even further above many of their contemporaries. One of my personal favorite details is that the track "Apoptosis" is heavily influenced by Jeff VanderMeer's brilliant novel Annihilation, the first book in the deeply unsettling Southern Reach trilogy. Moreover, Walmsley reached out to VanderMeer and got his permission to use some excerpts from the book in the lyrics. It's a wonderful touch on an already excellent song.

In some ways, Seekers is linked in my mind with Blood of the Prophets' album The Stars of the Sky Hid from Me (reviewed by yours truly here). Both bands are stellar examples of how the ability to write coherent, intriguing songs can help a band stand out among similar sounding bands. Seekers is a labor of love from a hard-working band, and the attention to detail paid to these songs is what makes them truly shine. I simply cannot recommend this album highly enough. Beyond Grace have established themselves as a band to be reckoned with.

1 comment:
  1. Ooh. Vandermeer is one of the creepiest writers in modern sci fi. Ambergris was chilling and strange.