Monotone is modern; when we look at Helenistic sculpture or a Gothic cathedral, we see the beauty of shape set in stone without the competing influence of color. But when these wonders were first sculpted and erected, they were painted as part of the vision of their creators to reflect the heavens and the earth. Only with time did the colors erode, the bare contours scoured of their pigmented cloak, the first piece to yield. As the Venus’ arms break and the Sphinx’s nose corrodes, representations collapse back into raw material and forms become monolithic rather than descriptive. Yet these capture our imagination still, and are perhaps all the more evocative for their attrition.
Gloson operate in this space, with phrases more suggestive than descriptive, the contours of metal worn but still noticeable. Their influences are clear – a healthy pull from Cult of Luna and Neurosis and a nod to the Earthy themes of Agalloch – but the end result is invigorating. The band can stretch out a simple idea across eleven minutes and somehow not bore, and even their riskier experiments with clean vocals and strings pay off, strengthening the roughened center of the album. The songs are built on striding rhythm and pure expanse; they evolve slowly and steadily, such that transitions are something always happening in the past and never the present.
Mid-album epic “Cringe” never strays far from the center line, a sparse but entrancing groove, but the sequence of subtle changes that the song transforms through create a sense of scope that echoes through the rest of the album. The trade of guitar for brass and bells at around four and a half minutes in sets up one of the album’s most dramatic shifts, a minimalist acoustic interlude preceding the reintroduction of rhythm which dominates the rest of the song. Beforehand, “Prowler,” takes this monotonous, groove-stretching strategy to the maximum extent and proves a fitting introduction to the album. and just before “Cringe,” the spacious “Antlers” ratchets up the atmosphere even more, using what sounds like digeridoo, nearly clean singing and nearly clean guitar to flesh out its primitivistic themes.
Grimen is simplistic but never uninteresting, its minimalist approach to melody and constant rhythm braiding together into a remarkably strong center. Its sludgy post-metal stays set in one place, but the locale is fleshed out enough to spend time in. Even the album’s shortest track, “Specter” has something new to offer, using a strings and acoustic guitar to trace out its simple contours. Its first half is tranquil and quite beautiful when contrasted with the thick intensity that suddenly snatches hold of the song halfway through. Even its fading conclusion is unexpected yet strangely beautiful. Through the end of the album, the band’s approach remains successful. “Embodiment” makes it eight minutes before the vocals kick in, and though some of that time might have been better spent, the song’s massive size and fragile conclusion make for an appropriate end to the record.
While Grimen‘s complete sound comes from the band’s cohesion, it’s the drumming that pulls the whole thing together. Skinsman “Samuel” keeps time with admirable endurance and pounds through some excellent fills and grooves. His performance is punchy and exciting, and his beats are engineered to pull every ounce of sound out of a tight-sounding kit. The interplay between bass and drums forms the hooks of Gloson‘s songs, and without such a thoroughly committed performance, this album could have been much less successful.
Grimen makes for an enveloping listen, working within a paradigm of simplicity but experimenting just enough to raise the stakes. At six songs and fifty minutes, it’s expansive without being long-winded and cinematic without feeling pretentious. I’d class it with Izah‘s now not-that-recent Sistere1 in terms of sludginess and overall quality, and given the reader response to that monolith, I’m sure Gloson will find an audience here. In this work, so gray and single-minded, shape and texture make for a sculptural work worthy of remembrance.