Hey. Hey you. Did you beat yourself over the head with the likes of Black Dahlia Murder, Static-X, and Heaven Shall Burn during your teens? Are you looking for some mellow metal to put on as background noise while you chisel away what’s left of your brain by puzzling out the next lame ass PowerPoint an hour before lunch break? Well, kids, this album’s for you!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m am being melodramatic, but the goal isn’t condescension, here. I actually like Grails‘s latest album, Chalice Hymnal–released just this February. You should check it out if you like droning music that two parts electronic and one part live meditation.
Oregon’s prog-rock threesome Grails is a band you listen to while you’re playing Diablo or organizing a spreadsheet. They’re not a band you’d sit back and listen to, sequestering yourself to the sound, unless you were floating on a lake. And you were baked.
Yeah, it’s super chill, but I probably wouldn’t do the dishes to it. Maybe if I were going for a jog and Pelham came on, I might pick up my pace a bit, because it reminds me of a scene from Road Racer or some other 80s film where a greasy, cigarette-stained biker is being chase by cops for no other reason than because he’s being chased by the cops.
Then the song is over just like that.
OK, so these bite-sized reviews will be in random order, so you can figure out your own story to the tunes. But, this is how mine goes:
This one starts with a slow jazz riff, with the occasional tap of the side of the snare. Then, you’re seized with an electric eruption sizzling layers down from the earth’s crust. Now enters the lead guitar hefting drawn-out delay mixed with old western saloon piano. The harmonica comes in, violins sing, and what the heck am I listening to? Every song is different, but this one sounds like the next James Bond theme, sans vocals.
When this song comes on, now we know our main character’s in deep with the one guys. Enters a bar he knows he’s not supposed to show his face in, some alien sounds come creaking out of the upper balcony rooms where the harlots lay in wait. He’s got a bad feeling, so he dips and an echoey synth reminiscent of Zero 7’s Simple Things creeps up behind him like the shadow cast a bad moon.
“Deep Snow II”
I’d argue that the tracks on Chalice Hymnal are not what’d you call songs. Not exactly. They’re more like something you’d here in a futuristic elevator, or as is the case with “Deep Snow II”, when you’re a lonely cowboy robot left on a deserted tundra planet, searching for your next oil can. The sustained reverb is pretty nice. Rings out, decreasing in volume, then turns and comes back up, right at the same as the next note is struck.
I do like how you can tell the song is ending: When the guitar slowly loses time with the drums, like they’re steadily losing their way, then it fades.
For some reason, the title track reminds me of one of Wild Beasts‘s (there it is, again, with the damn apostrophe ‘s’, damnit) recent songs. There’s this thug-like confidence to the beat. Add a little Daft Punk-esque synth, wash it in waves of tuba bleats, and now you’re seduced by kick drum jungle sounds. Our cowboy robot has traversed millennia to see all four seasons in a day. Now, near the end of “Chalice Hymnal”, we see him stepping into a neo noir flick.
“After the Funeral”
This one sounds like a mime’s being murdered really slowly, while his friend, the violinist can’t do anything to stop it, save look on from afar and play his sad song. Why? Because it’s his job, and the mime was probably part of the secret mime mafia. Who knows? I do like the methodical ebbing and receding tide of volume and breath circumscribing the end of the song, and perhaps the end of everything.
“New Prague” is probably my favorite, though. Sounds like I’m walking through a cemetery on Halloween. I’m gently pushing dripping Spanish moss out of my face and trying to peer around the next tree to see if I can get a glimpse of the chorus line of dudes chanting along to some Satanic hymn. Is that what I heard? I could’ve sworn I heard some guy screaming on one of the lower layers of the track, but maybe I just had an aneurysm.
Or, perhaps “Rebecca” is my favorite… Rebecca fills the room nicely, transforms the environment into an Eastern rock garden paradise, replete with one of those dunking ducks like you’d see in a PI’s office. Doonk. The synthy bass line and chiming sounds like muffled wind chimes breaking, making you feel immediately at ease.
I, personally, think Chalice Hymnal is really pretty. One of my gripes is that the songs don’t blend together like, say, Deftone’s Koi No Yokan or Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.
The songs on Grails‘s latest album are over too soon and I feel like I could get a lot more work done if they just tripled the length of the CD so I could block out the rest of the world and focus on the task at hand, while quarantining off the dreamy part of my brain so it can listen to this album and get its fix of smoky mountain views and chilly morning vibes.
You can listen to the full thing (in the order the doctor prescribed) on YouTube, or order it off some site like Amazon or maybe even off their own Bandcamp so no one else has to take a cut?