Beyond Grace – Monstrous [EP]

Beyond Grace
Monstrous
Released February 2014
Extreme melodic death metal
Self-released

It’s with no mean frequency that the phrase ‘If it ain’t got riff, it ain’t worth a fuck!’ tumbles from these lips. Nothing turns me off from an extreme band more than constant noise or technicality for the sake of it. It just doesn’t spell out H-E-A-V-Y to me. Some of my favourite metal albums are those that punch a middle finger into the face of convention, blast beats swirling effortlessly into percussive grooves. Think Carcass Heartwork or Bloodbath‘s opus The Fathomless Mastery (especially At The Behest Of The Dead! Damn! That chorus!).

It’s such a shame that the UK bands taking this particular musical bull by the horns are vastly outnumbered by those who pump out the same old trend-oriented metal pudding as everyone else, but those who do tend to hit me in a special place.

Step up, Nottingham’s Beyond Grace – a band who seem to have set out to make writing an actual tune part of their purpose for existence. From the first moments of opening track The Chronophage – which I believe roughly means ‘the time-eater’ – it’s obvious that this lot don’t care much for fitting in to the preconceived notions of either the current UK death scene or mainstream extreme metal (Yup, I said it. It’s a thing now!), while brushing shoulders with both. The song is an easy choice for an opener, kicking off with a bombastic announcement of power-chords, shamelessly declaring “We are here! Listen!”, but it’s the intelligent introduction of complementary lead-work that really makes it stand out.

And they’re no one-trick-pony, either. Progressing to the accompanying tracks, Inhumanity and Invasive Exotics, they churn out riff after riff of addictive, individual brutality. While more consistently fast-paced, these two numbers guide the listener through a bit of an experiment in combining elements of rhythmic divergence and harmonious exaltation. The entire EP is dripping with all the best bits of At The Gates, Lamb Of God and The Haunted, without really sounding like any of them. I think I even sense the echoes of 80s thrash in there, but that could just be decades-old tinnitus.

It’s also worthy of note that frontman Andy Walmsley is one of the few who can really nail down clarity of lyrical content while dealing in full-on death metal vocals. It’s not something that everybody will care about, and to be fair, I do love a whole load of bands who haven’t achieved this, but I find it adds a little something being able tap into the story aspect of a heavy song on first listen.

I’d really like to hear full-length continuation of this style, but maybe with a more aggressive, rawer production, as it feels something is missing in terms of bite, and the whole thing is over far too soon for my liking. That said, this is a gripping, memorable release, proving, to these ears at least, that you don’t have to ditch any sense of melody and/or hooks to keep up with the pace of modern heaviness. More of this kind of thing!

4/5

Paul Macmillan

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