Written by Dominic Hemy
Firstly, congratulations on the new album, Our Kingdom Undone. You find yourselves in an unusual position of having finished it just before the world was turned upside down, and have been keeping it under wraps for so long: what has that been like? How has your view of the record changed in that time?
Andy Walmsley (vocals): Well the waiting is the hardest part, right? On the one hand we’ve been climbing the walls waiting to get this album into people’s hands (and ears). We poured our hearts and souls into it and we want people to hear it! But the delay also gave us a chance to do more visual stuff (we loved working on all the videos, all of which are very different) and has also given us some critical distance from the record, meaning we can listen to it a bit more objectively now and actively enjoy the fact that it’s finally out there.
The lyrics appear to be a very important part of who Beyond Grace are, and reside in a territory that is not so common in the death metal scene. What do you wish to share about the messages conveyed, and the influences/inspirations behind them?
Andy: The lyrics are definitely a huge part of who we are. Honestly, the rest of the guys are so talented, and put in so much effort into playing/writing/recording that I feel like the lyrical content, the imagery, the hooks and the wordplay need to have that extra effort put into them just to match up. The message of the album may seem very political – and it is – but it’s even more personal, and driven both by a lot of fury and frustration (at the way the world is) as well as a surprising amount of care and compassion (for what the world could be).
I suppose Chris is hardly a “new” guitarist in the band any more, but how did his input alter the process from Seekers to Our Kingdom Undone?
Andy: Quite simply he just adds an extra layer of character, something unique to him, that contributes to the greater whole and makes us better. He’s another voice, another mind to bounce ideas off and help shape them, and a key part of the whole puzzle. Sure, we could have written this record without him, but it wouldn’t have been the same record.
The striking artwork (created by Shindy Reehal) is a very different look to last time, so what prompted that shift? How much direction did you give to them?
Andy: The label were the ones who asked us to consider using a different artist and art style this time around, since they didn’t think what we had planned really “fit” with what we’d created. And the second I saw some of Shindy’s work I knew he was “the one”. I had the core idea already in mind – the woman on horseback (part Lady Godiva, part Boudicaa, part Blind Justice), the field of futile dead, the feasting vultures, etc – but he took it, added lots of other cool and subtle elements (many drawn from the lyrics) and made magic with it.
Our Kingdom Undone is your first release on Prosthetic, which I imagine has to be rather exciting. What has this allowed you to do above and beyond the debut?
Andy: Exciting? Most definitely. But there’s also a certain sense of responsibility. They took a chance on us and we aim to prove that they were right to do so. And what it’s done for us, already, is raise our profile significantly and put us on people’s radars who may not have discovered us, or may not have taken us as seriously, had Prosthetic not chosen to throw their weight behind us.
With the country inching back towards some sort of “normality”, it must be very exciting to be returning to the stage. How was the album release show, with the added bonus of live streaming it around the world?
Andy: The show was a lot of different feelings and emotions all at once, to be honest. A lot of trepidation, because it was our first show in over 18 months, but also a lot of excitement and anticipation because it was our first show in over 18 months! But we wanted to do something special, something we’d never done before, something to help us connect with people who couldn’t be there, people who hadn’t seen us before, and especially people who may never have the chance to see us. The whole night really flew by though and we already can’t wait to do it again. There’s nothing quite like the rush of playing live.
Back at the beginning of the year you mentioned a few times on social media about album number three; obviously the focus has shifted back right now, but how is that coming along? Are elements of it going to make it into the live sets at all?
Andy: It’s funny that you asked that. One thing we found during the writing process was that we really enjoyed being able to “road test” a good chunk (albeit not all) of the material, because it helped us hear it in a different way. So there’s a very good chance that, while we’re definitely going to be focused on “…Kingdom…” for the foreseeable future, one or two tracks from the next record might eventually start popping up here and there in the set.
Something a little more meta to finish on: how do you see the music industry changing after all this upheaval? Are you optimistic about it?
Andy: In general? Not really. Let’s face it, the music “industry”, as a whole, doesn’t exist to promote art or artists, it exists to produce and promote “product”. And I think we’re already seeing a lot of the major players making moves to take even more ownership over that “product” – the product of someone else’s hard work and creativity in many cases – precisely because the traditional touring and revenue model(s) have undergone such upheaval.
But more specifically, for the Metal scene? A lot of bands have adapted and learned a lot from what has happened, they’ve been working on new ways of touring, new ways of writing, new ways of presenting themselves and getting their work out into the world, and I think what’s happened has sort of “cleared the deck”, somewhat, for new and up-and-coming bands to really step up and make a name for themselves. Hopefully we’ll be one of them!
The new album from Beyond Grace, Our Kingdom Undone is out now.