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By the Grace of God

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Biography

By the Grace of God was easily the most sincere, radical, and politically outspoken band of the straight-edge and hardcore revival scenes of the mid-'90s. Which are two scenes that the band would eventually distance itself from as they became increasingly political and more highly critical of the hardcore scene's turn toward "mainstream" thinking and mass marketing. By the Grace of God began as little more than an excuse for vocalist Rob Pennington and guitarist Duncan Barlow to play uplifting, politically charged, high-energy hardcore together again. The two had cut their teeth fronting the phenomenally emotional Louisville hardcore band Endpoint and had since drifted off into various post-hardcore, metal, and indie-oriented projects — most notably Barlow with Guilt. By the Grace of God started out playing small shows, quickly amassing a following with their outspoken and passionate performances. The duo had assembled a veritable who's who of the local scene that included Thommy Browne (Enkindels) on drums, Jay Palumbo (Empathy/Elliott) on guitar, and Benny (Elliott) on bass, all of whom would join in the sloganeering as By the Grace of God shouted their anti-corporate local-business-supporting message at audiences between songs. The five of them quickly inked a deal with Chicago's Victory label, issuing the For the Love of Indie Rock EP shortly thereafter. The title of the record was a playful jab at some former friends of the band. The "friends" in question were members of an Indianapolis band called Split Lip, who had seemingly abandoned their own hardcore roots. Hardcore roots that By the Grace of God was wearing on their sleeves. Split Lip began to favor a more indie approach after the release of their For the Love of the Wounded LP on Endpoint's former label, Doghouse. By the Grace of God's first record included a cover of a Poison Idea song, in addition to the band's own sing-along ready anthems in waiting. Their next release was the much more polished Perspective LP, produced by Steve Evetts in his New Jersey studios. After playing a large handful of regional shows, Palumbo and Benny left the band to focus full-time on Elliott. They were replaced by bassist Brian Roundtree and guitarist Robby Scott. The band then embarked upon a national tour supporting Avail, AFI, and Good Riddance before Barlow's increasing dissatisfaction with small but violent right-wing factions within the national hardcore community caused him to announce his "retiring" from the scene altogether, effectively ending By the Grace of God for a time. The band played a couple of "final" shows in Indiana and recorded songs intended for a final EP, though they had severed their connections with the Victory label. After a bit of a hiatus, By the Grace of God re-formed with an Ohio native named George replacing Browne. They performed with this lineup for a time as their final recordings saw release as the Three Easy Steps to a Better Democracy CD through Louisville-based label Three Little Girls. Barlow decided to move to Colorado so the band decided to disband again, playing another "final" show at Krazy Fest 3 in 2000 with onetime Endpoint drummer Lee Fitzer joining them for a couple of Endpoint covers. A few months later By the Grace of God reunited one last time to see Pennington off to Colorado as well, this time with the lineup of Browne, Palumbo, Scott, and Roundtree. In 2001, Pennington returned to Louisville where he formed the band Black Widows with Browne and members of the National Acrobat. ~ Ryan J. Downey, Rovi

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