All We Destroy
posted on 2/2011 By:
There's a lot to love about the San Francisco/Bay Area, but if I had to choose one element that tops the list, I'd go with that region's inclination for stubborn open-mindedness that stretches across nearly every facet of day-to-day life, including its enterprising music scene. The adventurous "anything goes" mindset maintained by so many of the musicians at play is readily supported by an equally progressive fan-base and a wealth of available venues for performances, thus resulting in one of our country's most vibrant, diverse scenes that consistently forges projects that obliterate conventional genre boundaries. And while I'd agree it can be tedious continually trying to label and further tag every innovative "sub-genre" that blazes down the chute, it's something I've gotten used to during an age when people mostly rely on hyperlinked tags in blog margins and sites like Last.fm to help point them in the direction of new music worthy of investigation.
That said, welcome to the greatly anticipated third release from San Francisco's post-progressive-sludgy-chamber-whoosa-whatcha-muh-metal power trio, Grayceon: a band that burned into the arena in 2007 with a pioneering debut that hammered more than a few metal fans and critics to the wall and suitably cast the project under oodles of listeners' microscopes. And while just one spin of All We Destroy will likely continue to paint a baffling picture for those who somehow weren't ensorcelled by the band's brand of epic cello/guitar/drum yarn, those of us who've long-since consumed and lovingly digested the debut and its excellent 2008 follow-up will notice quite a number of shifts with record number three.
The single largest deflection this time around, apart from the fact that there's only one tune (among six) that stretches well past the 10-minute mark, has to do with the amount of vocal emphasis placed throughout. While certainly a commendable element on previous works, the amiably textured male/female vocal layering mostly took a backseat when compared to the delicate interplay between Jackie's satiny-smooth cello, Max's finger-picked guitar style and Zack's often manic drumming. And while all those elements are still undoubtedly present in spades once again, All We Destroy ups the ante in terms of unearthing new vocal terrain…for Jackie.
That's another shift for 2011: Max folds in his accompanying voice very sparingly on this record, leaving the rest of the new waters -- of the turbulent variety, mostly -- to be explored solely by Jackie. And really, this adds yet another compelling element to the trio's already innovative sound. Jackie screeches in Ludicran fashion throughout All We Destroy, opening an entirely new angle of rancor that previous records never touched. But as is the case with Grayceon, balance is the key element to the formula, so while Jackie's cord-shredding provokes spots on nearly every tune, there are plenty of stretches where her delicate voice takes the spotlight, also with rewarding results. Her stint with the moody AmberAsylum was enough to show she has a pretty voice, but the lullaby lilt of a tune like "Once A Shadow" is so pretty, soothing and calming, it could soften a crotchety one-eyed wolverine with a face full of porcupine quills into a squirming ball hoping for a belly-scratch within a scant minute.
There are some musical shifts on the record as well, but they're a little less in your face when balanced against the vocal deviations. The album's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" strikes with the suitably epic 17-minute "We Can", which grandstands the band's ability to ebb and flow seamlessly between turbulent measures and stretches of melodious cool-breezing with every bit of the same passion and talent you'd hear from a celebrated orchestra, but there's a new "focus," for lack of a better term, that allows the remaining tunes to achieve nearly the same level of saga in a surprisingly short amount of time, by Grayceon standards. Closer "War's End" is the only tune to spend its entire 7-minutes driving the album home on a pleasantly mellow note, with the rest of the selections doing a fine job of bending the band's hallmark mid-paced sludge within a windstorm that can strike angrily, heavily or surprisingly calmly at any given moment, and at times with each instrument filling a completely different role. On a personal note, I absolutely love it when Max and Jackie play sweetly and serenely while Zack flails like his armpit hair is on fire, and the ol' wish gets granted more than a few times throughout these tunes.
Really, there's not much for me to blubber about, apart from the mix of the record taking Max's grittiness too far into the background here-and-there. I'd say If you've been a fan of the band through their first two records, round #3 will certainly give your stereo and headphones something richly rewarding to obsess over for the foreseeable future. Like a handful of other great power trios of our day, Grayceon has managed to rip up what's conventional, even by progressive music's standards, and they comfortably jet along a path solely on their own. Tag them however you'd like, the bottom line is that Grayceon creates some of the most compelling and rewardingly innovative music of our day, and All We Destroy nails the bullseye once again.
Register to post comments.
Pearl and the End of Days
This Grand Show