Grand Massive – 4 Review

Stoner rock and aggression mix about as well as water and oil. It’s more suited to laid-back breeziness or good-natured fuzz rock. It’ll tread into darker territories on occasion (Realms of Vision’s Through All Unknown two years ago was a memorable example) but beyond that, attempts at a darker form of the style frequently dissolve into sludge. The genre, not the metaphor. Grand Massive is a German stoner outfit who have been working on the road since 2008, and they try another angle, giving their stoner style some thrashy venom and just a whiff of old school heavy metal. Does it work to give them the edge over their peers in the oversaturated desert rock market?

In theory, at least, it seems to work. Grand Massive combine the fuzzy guitar sound and ‘Murican desert haze of classic stoner with a more aggressive drumming style, and the riffs and vocal lines express more urgency and bite than the typical easygoing version of the genre. The resulting mix dabbles in the same waters as groove metal, without the ever irritating overdoses of pinch harmonics and nu-metal chuggery. In the hands of more capable executioners this would certainly be a potent mixture; I could see Black Sites make a killing in this territory.

In practice, sadly, it’s not so successful, owing to execution and songwriting woes rather than conceptual issues. Chief problem are the vocals. They suffer badly from a common affliction called “trying too hard.” Not that he’s trying to belt out operatic notes beyond his ability; rather, he forces the drawling distortion in his performance, emitting the same energy as an upcoming B-movie action film star before he’s finished the sophomore year of his Stage Performance degree. It’s so obviously put upon and pretend-badass it’s ridiculous, and it does nothing to improve his technical performance, which is terribly flat and frequently off key. When we get to “My Path,” however, he tries to force a booming bass on top of it and it’s so much worse it almost wraps back around to hilarious à la The Room. Add an overdose of faux-toughness in the lyrics, awkward phrasing (“Revolution Waltz” lands like a wet potato) and a well-meaning but poorly executed tribute to fallen rock and metal gods (“Never Gone”), and you have a perfect storm of cringy vocals.

The songwriting doesn’t make up for it either. The drumming is actually quite solid, forming the driving backbone of the album, and the pleasantly thrumming bass is nothing to sniff at either. But the riffs vary from okay to nondescript, owing partially to the unbalanced production that under-emphasizes the guitars and places far too much importance on the vocals. It doesn’t speak well for the band’s self-reflection that they chose to highlight the album’s worst feature. Aside from the production woes and undercooked riffcraft, the band seems unable to strike the right balance between groove and aggression, landing in an awkward space in the middle where it’s too slow to muster any real energy and laying on the combativeness too thick to settle into a more relaxed flow.

The net result of this dichotomy is that 4 sounds impotent. The lyrics speak of revolution and burning kingdoms down, but they do so with all the pretend belligerence of teenagers that have a lot of talk and no fight. The antagonism is laid on thick, but the music lacks the punch and energy to follow through. The musical area Grand Massive is working in certainly has potential, but it takes a band with a lot more skill and experience to actually follow up on it. Certainly when it comes to the vocals, because while 4 would not be a strong album without the vocal issues, they are certainly what takes it from promising-yet-middling to outright bad.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metalville Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

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