Grey Skies Fallen – Cold Dead Lands Review

Grey Skies Fallen - Cold Dead Lands 01It is somehow appropriate that I find myself listening intently to an album called Cold Dead Lands, by a band called Grey Skies Fallen, while we endure the coldest week of the year. Canada in the winter is pretty much a cold dead land, so it was fatefully wise of me to sign up for this review. There’s nothing more fitting to listen to when it is -33 Celsius outside than some long-form doom metal, especially if it comes from a veteran New York band’s fifth full-length, cunningly mixed by Dan Swanö. We haven’t reviewed Grey Skies Fallen here yet — their last album, The Many Sides of Truth, came out in 2014, and was referenced by the now-retired Jean-Luc Ricard is his review of the poor Grey Skies Fallen/Buckshot Facelift collab, Brave the Waters. Buckshot Facelift appears here again, as Will Smith drops some filthy harsh vocals in the excellent “Picking Up the Pieces,” but don’t let that deter you. This is a pretty fine album.

The order of the day is modern doom metal in the style perfected by Pallbearer combined with a dose of My Dying Bride, but with plenty of twists and turns to keep the listener engaged. A gallop here, harsh vocals there, numerous tempo and melody changes in each song, all add up to an experience that holds our attention longer than many albums in this style. There are only six songs, but with an average length of nine minutes, immediate gratification is not on the menu. The patient among us will be rewarded with strong output like “Visions from the Last Sunset” and “After the Summer Comes the Fall,” two of the longest tracks that feature Rick Habeeb’s heartfelt clean and gritty harsh vocals. Habeeb’s guitar playing also shines, with ample variety in the riffs and passionate solos.

Grey Skies Fallen used to be a five-piece, but they’ve stripped it back to a trio, with Tom Anderer on bass (he gets some pretty sweet moments in “After the Summer Comes the Fall,” as he leads a jazzy interlude) and Sal Gregory on drums. This is their first album without keyboards, giving the remaining trio more room to stretch and express themselves. They do this most splendidly on “Picking up the Pieces.” The song is downright jaunty, reminding one of King Goat early on, with its more “heavy metal” sound and Habeeb’s excellent vocals. It drops back down in tempo towards the end, and much like the album’s title track, it is a compelling study in contrasts. Ponderous yet delicate, climactic yet deliberate, melodious yet harsh. Aside from not knowing when to bring the song to an end, it’s fabulous.

Grey Skies Fallen - Cold Dead Lands 02

That’s the problem with several of these songs: the last few minutes can drag. Sure, these are epic doom songs, but the final few minutes of a couple of the songs don’t seem to know when to end. Grey Skies Fallen self-produced Cold Dead Lands (and sonically they did an admirable job), and perhaps an outside set of ears could have clipped off a couple of minutes here and there to give the material more impact. As mentioned in the intro, the infallible Dan Swanö mixed and mastered the album, and it sounds excellent.

“I see the world, and it’s cold and dead,” intones Habeeb on the title track, and that’s exactly what I could see outside my windows while reviewing Cold Dead Lands. Although several songs can drag, overall the performances and arrangements are more than good enough to warrant a listen or two, especially for fans of the bands mentioned. I know the album has me digging through Grey Skies Fallen’s back catalog shortly, as well as hoping it isn’t six more years before their next release.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Xanthros Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 24th, 2020

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