1. Sounds Like Thunder 2. Song For You 3. Into the Deep 4. Ride
Although their general approach may be familiar to a number of discerning heavy music fans, chances are Grayceon are still not quite like anything in your music collection. Featuring members of San Francisco groups Walken and Amber Asylum, this trio samples the metallic buzz of the former and the stark Gothicism of the latter to form a muted blend that retains its creative edge without ostentation. Although their self-titled LP is only four tracks, its prodigious length (45 minutes) and full packaging does qualify it as such.
The opener 'Sounds Like Thunder' leads with Grayceon's best qualities: Max Doyle's thoughtful guitar intertwined with the pensive cello of Jackie Perez Gratz to create a musical tapestry both soothing and subtly charged. At its best, the vocal interplay between these two mimics the timbre of their instruments in subdued, elegant polyphony.
One might at times wonder whether 'Grayceon' is metal at all, rather than prog rock or even post-rock. Arguably, it is any and all. However, each time that Doyle and Gratz wander off into a subdued instrumental, soon enough the aggressive fills of drummer Zack Farwell's come surging back again to accompany a newly distorted and more angular riff pattern from Doyle, and that heavier vibe does linger more often than any other.
For the most part, though, Grayceon tends towards some compromise of extremes, settling on a mood that is often melancholy but rarely mournful, 11:40 into 'Ride' being one of the few examples of the latter. (As it happens, 'Ride' is their most diverse song, with other passages sounding downright quaint--15:00--or like a quasi-thrash warm-up--17:00.) Largely instrumental, this first full-length allows itself plenty of room to develop its many themes, handling each carefully and never seeming too hasty. This will from time to time make following the overall theme of a song rather difficult, but the fact that these songs have such themes to follow is a success in itself. Many progressive and, it must be said, self-indulgent groups of this nature follow wherever their whims lead them, leaving both structural continuity and their audience behind. Not so, here, though, as 'Grayceon' is continually compelling.
Although Doyle and Gratz are the only two members providing melody, Grayceon always find a way to make their songs sound rich. This often does include the use of layering, but only one track of each instrument would still be more than sufficient with the melodies they have chosen. Farwell is also to be commended for his diverse and energetic use of the kit, which contributes greatly to this album's memorable vitality, but he can at times sound too eager or too loud. The other members do at times equal his intensity, particularly the semi-shouted moments from Gratz, but the overall feel of 'Grayceon' is more subdued than some of the band's demo recordings and toning down the drums in their mix, even if it is just by a notch, would make 'Grayceon' even more appealing.
And all in all, 'Grayceon' is remarkably consistent, particularly for a debut outing. Although Walken appear to be a fairly new group, Gratz's extensive connections and experience in the San Francisco scene bring legitimacy to any project, which in this case is well deserved. If Grayceon continue upon their present path, they will be welcomed by music lovers across all traditions and help overturn the foolish notion that music must be muzak to appeal to a wide audience. Indeed, if more bands were playing with the earnest focus of Grayceon, elevator jazz would be a blunder long forgotten.
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