Beyond Grace - Seekers - (9/10)
Published on July 5, 2017
These British death metallers once lived an alternate life as an extreme thrash act called Threnody between 2005 and 2011. Thank God they decided to regroup under a new style with an appropriate moniker in Beyond Grace, because if their material since 2014 is anything to go by, the first full-length should be a blast. Turns out the band’s premier album Seekers is actually greater than the sum of its parts – as it blows their EP out of the water. Upping the ante in almost every respect, the Englishmen create a progressive/technical death metal showpiece that will have any fan of Black Crown Initiate or Allegaeon champing at the bit. Simultaneously exhibiting a penchant for complex rhythms, headbang-worthy grooves and accessible song structures is a tough task, but Beyond Grace manage it with aplomb.
Creeping out of the speakers comes the eerie intro to the opening title-track, and for a brief moment the audience is unsure what to expect. Will I be frightened by a sudden jolt? Will I be eased into this monster with a gradual crescendo of ambience? “Seekers” almost bounces into action with an impressive groove that defies us to lump them in with other widdly-diddly, tech-death fodder. These guys understand the intelligence behind a hook. In a wondrous way, this album is always making me question what might come next – but always satisfies me with its choices. The multi-faceted “Demiurge” is the best example of this exploratory songwriting: with section after section flowing smoothly into one another like milk into tea. The massive heralding chorus (‘III AAAMM! The demi-uuuuurge!’), oozes into a perfectly brief piano segment before utterly exploding with colossal riffage.
The production quality is utterly superb; praise to the mixing for giving every instrument its place and room to shine. Andrew Walmsley’s growls possess a huge range; dipping down to guttural depths and soaring up to stratospheric screams, sometimes within a few seconds of each other. With a scrutinizing ear, you can hear him breathe mid-lyric, which only prepares him to pack a more menacing punch. The guitar tone is crisp and heavy, matching the snappiness of the drums (especially that snare and delicious ride cymbal so beautifully played with on “The Etherealist”). Most impressively, Andrew Workman’s bass is insanely interesting, and deserves utmost praise. Even when the texture is thick with layers of guitars and vocals, he’s flittering up and down the fretboard, providing a necessary counterpoint and another layer of intrigue. He absolutely steals the show throughout “Black Math Ritual” – especially when the bass is absent for 30 seconds towards the end, to allow the listener to really feel the impact.
This record has its moments of straightforward death metal blastery. The opening of “Acolytes” almost reeks of Decapitated; and the single “Oracles” is one of the most memorable extreme metal tracks of 2017 so far. But this album has many faces, from the hulking mid-tempo grooves to the semi-improvised lounge sections, all belonging to the same brutal and interesting world. Seekers will easily captivate lovers of progressive death metal because of its addictive quality and ethereal atmosphere. Not only is it an album created by music-lovers for music-lovers, but there is a sense of musical professionalism surrounding this LP that is unmatched in the field of death metal for 2017. Place yourself in a padded room, stick on some Beyond Grace, and lose yourself in the multi-layered masterwork that is album.