Grayceon // All We Destroy
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Creative Destruction
Label: Profound Lore
Websites: grayceon.com | myspace.com/grayceon | grayceon.bandcamp.com
Release Date: EU: 2011.03.04 | US: 03.01.2011
Grayceon is a three-piece progressive metal band from San Francisco that was formed in 2005 and that is releasing their third full-length All We Destroy via Profound Lore (which is being distroed by Sound Pollution in Sweden, by the way). Since their 2007 debut, the band has been hailed as something totally unique on the metal landscape, and in 2011 this is still very true. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that they are a singular voice in the area in such a way that there is very little functional comparison to a reader understand what it is that they do, and more specifically why it’s so damn successful. However, as a music reviewer that’s my job (or in this case, ridiculously time consuming habit), so I shall wade fearlessly into the fray and hope that you, angry reader, are left with a sense of why you should head over to Profound Lore’s website and purchase the record.
Drawing parallels between Grayceon and many others is nearly impossible largely because of the band’s initial makeup. Guitars, drums and an electric cello with female vocals and very rare screams, are the base of the sound. You can imagine that this changes the dynamics of the record’s mix for sure, actually putting it into the similar dynamic range as something like Death or Obscura with the fretless bass or like Winds, except with a much more acoustic production. This doesn’t stop the band from having genuinely heavy music, however. With an infusion of doom that seems to work as a landing pad for the musical identity, the band still knocks out some heavy, ponderous metal that kicks you in the spine. This definitely stands out as a defining aspect of the 17 minute epic “We Can,” but this dirgey tendency is ubiquitous throughout All We Destroy.
However, Grayceon is also a lot more delicate than heavy at times. In fact, I’m reminded of earlier Murder By Death at times (like on the track “Once A Shadow”), largely because of the cello connection, but also because the band has a very organic sound. This organic approach is becoming more common now in the underground, bands like Shroud of Despondency, Agalloch and Ludicra (as well as handfuls of others) seem to be approaching the production of records such as this one from the perspective of “change as little as possible” in the studio. While the production here is still very good, it has such a different feel than most of what I’m getting these days that it almost feels like an entirely different beast. The production is airy, the cello sounds like it was recorded in a fairly large room and uses only natural reverb, and there isn’t a touch of replacement on the drums which have a good, rich acoustic tone to them. It’s beautiful to listen to and it matches the bands delicate, “indie” side.
And on All We Destroy more than on 2008’s This Grand Show it feels like Grayceon is showing off that more delicate side. While there is still excellent heavy music and groove, there seem to be longer acoustic tracks and a lot less driving or fast metal passages. Though, this is where the band shines and the tone, harmonies and feeling are so beautiful and the writing superbly links these parts with some of the coolest riffs and progressions that I’ve heard in a long time. These all work in a symbiosis with vocalist, screamer and cellist Jackie Perez Gratz
and the very intermittent screams of guitarist Max Doyle1. While the screams aren’t mind-blowing, Gratz’s smooth, alto vocals fit the musical style with distinct perfection. She has a bit of a throaty delivery that borders on sultry at times and that really is a highlight.
I guess my only complaints here are minimal. While I have just waxed poetic about how fantastically beautiful the music is, this record just isn’t as heavy as This Grand Show and I miss some of that. And while the songs are shorter for the most part, which I think is an improvement in some ways, the energy goes missing. Also, I’m really not a huge fan of the opening track and after my fourth or fifth listen I started just starting the listen on track two “Shellmounds” which is probably the album’s best track. But as I assume you’ve just read, this record is otherwise a piece of progressive metal art. Grayceon continues to be a shining example of the width and breadth of what it means to love metal.