Here’s an awkward sports metaphor to get this review started: you know how baseball players (or sometimes tennis players, but I know a lot less about tennis) who will sometimes talk about their sweet spot? It’s a reference to that perfect spot on the bat (or racket, in tennis) where the force of the pitch is balanced out perfectly by the force of the bat, so that you get the maximum response (i.e. the ball goes the furthest) for the amount of effort put into the action (the swing). Now I don’t simply mention this because it allows me to flex my baseball nerd muscles for a minute (and yes, I’m a huge baseball nerd), but because I think metal listeners have a kind of sweet spot of their own—the thing or things that when they hear them provoke the maximum response (usually headbanging, but not always) for the effort being put in (the music being created). I definitely have my sweet spots—non-traditional song structures, unique instrumentation, female vocals, overall challenging music—and this Graceyon EP manages to hit them all.
For those not already familiar with the band, here’s a quick description, lifted from their press materials: “Grayceon [is] comprised of one guitar (Max Doyle), one cello (Jackie Perez Gratz, who, along with her cello, has appeared on albums from bands like Om, Agalloch, Cattle Decapitation, Giant Squid, Amber Asylum and more), and one set of drums (Zack Farwell).” Their overall sound is fairly unique. Epic progressive chamber sludge/doom? I don’t know—the only other band that I can think of that sounds remotely like Grayceon is Subrosa, with their twin violins and rather pretty take on funeral doom, but that’s not a very satisfying comparison, really. The songs on this EP—and there are only two of them, comprising nearly 30 minutes of music—are far more dynamic and elegant than anything I’ve heard from Subrosa, and I adore that band. They also manage to rock a hell of a lot harder, too. There are a lot of headbang-able moments on this EP.
As for the songs, I think “Pearl” is the stronger of the two tracks, and not just because it’s the shorter of the two. Neither of the songs really seem as long as one would expect given their epic lengths. There’s enough complexity to each song that neither ever feel repetitive nor like they drag. The shorter length does make “Pearl” seem more urgent, perhaps, but “End of Days” is actually the heavier of the two. What it really comes down to is that I prefer the vocal performance on “Pearl,” which is largely wordless, with Gratz’s voice almost acting as a counterpoint to her cello and creating a really cool effect through the middle two-thirds of the song. “End of Days” gets lower marks, even though it’s more musically complex than “Pearl,” because the lyrics are fairly banal compared to what’s happening musically, especially the song’s chorus: ‘We rock your rolling stone.” Maybe that’s just me being nit-picky, but I’d have much preferred the song had it been a mostly instrumental affair like “Pearl.”
Overall, though, this EP is excellent and should more than please anyone who likes their metal challenging, complex, and almost totally unique. This one is going to get many more spins before the year is through. The vinyl will be shipping from The Flenser sometime in mid-February. You’re going to want to get yourself a copy.
Final Grade: A-