Music for Nations
1) Cypress Era
4) Sentimental Vultures
5) Matter Metropolis
6) Sweat Tastes Sweeter
9) Vive La Republique
10) Mother My Lover
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
I think it was sometime in the mid-2000s that I finally gave up on the idea of The Beyond reforming. Their debut album 'Crawl' was a brilliant example of jazzy prog metal and was largely ignored. When it came to album #2, and a shift of record labels, the writing was probably already on the wall. In 1995, after a brief hiatus, the band changed their name to Gorilla, altered their sound - to be more in-keeping with the alternative scene that was killing bands off - and that was the end of The Beyond. Now, as much as I loved 'Crawl', it's curious that I don't remember too much about 'Chasm'. I owned it, but I never seemed to play it. So, it is, 25 years later, I return to this forgotten album to see what it was that made me forget all about it.
The album opens with what sounds very much like a continuation of 'Crawl's overall style. What is immediately obvious, however, is that JG Thirlwell's production is somewhat claustrophobic. I'm sure he was a great catch at the time, but his muddy touch ruins a bit of the dynamic with this album. 'Crawl', by contrast, popped with clarity despite being slightly dry; I particularly enjoyed their drum sound, even though it was an acquired taste. The snare is tamed here.
The song writing on 'Chasm' feels like a natural progression, retaining the core of their sound while incorporating some era-appropriate stylistic ticks. It may seem less technical than 'Crawl' on the surface, but the use of instruments is once again effective; with less reliance on manic riffing, more of the textures come through. Once we hit the middle of the album though, it's clear that the catchiness of Crawl has given way to something more brooding. It makes for less instant appeal, but helps the album overcome its production somewhat by revealing hidden depths and variation. If there was a criticism of 'Crawl' it was that, barring a couple of tracks, the feel was similar throughout. The same cannot be levelled at 'Chasm'. It's a more mature set of songs. The youthful, dare I say innocent, attitude giving way to something far more grown-up.
John Whitby (the coolest Mayor of Derby, indeed) never sounded better than on this album. His natural vibrato being used to great effect, with a strong sense of melody and harmony. Andrew Gatford's guitar created sonic textures that are never too technical as to confuse, but crackle with energy; the angular riffing giving way to the moodiest of melodies. James Kersey displayed a wonderfully restrained sense of tone and a fluid style that provides a solid bedrock. Never flashy (aside from a little bit of funk now and then), his grooves are extremely inventive. Neil Cooper shows the flair for writing intelligent drum tracks that would see him as a natural choice to fill the vacant Therapy? drum seat a few years later (I always thought that Fyfe Ewing and Neil Cooper had a very similar style and sound).
So, where are they now? While a reunion gig was put on for charity in 2017, it seems that The Beyond are content to leave their past behind them. Which is a shame, because rock/metal needs their imagination more than ever. I can't think of a single metal band that comes close to matching their knack of blending progressiveness and catchiness (Cynic maybe came close but ruined it with their last album). Some of the guys are still playing music, which I fully intend to investigate further. John, of course, became a Labour councillor and, subsequently, Mayor of Derby.
Does this album deserve to have been forgotten? Not even slightly. I can't even begin to imagine why I didn't give it much time myself. Maybe it was the changing scene. Maybe I was hoping for Crawl Part 2. Whatever, it was unfairly overlooked by most, and led to another band, brimming with talent, to fall by the wayside. Gorilla was an interesting reboot at the time, but their work never spoke to me the way The Beyond did. 'Chasm', then, is a forgotten classic. Following on from a beloved debut would never be easy. However, rather than resting on their laurels and playing it safe, they took the bold step to further progress their sound; without totally abandoning who they were. Maybe things would have been different had they not been so bold. Itís a moot point. While it's hard to track copies down now, the band's official YouTube page has the album in full. I strongly suggest you give it a listen.
Retrospective review by Steve Cowan (July 2018)
"While a reunion gig was put on for charity in 2017, it seems that The Beyond are content to leave their past behind them. Which is a shame, because rock/metal needs their imagination more than ever."
THE BEYOND - CHASM