Grayceon – All We Destroy (3/1/2011) Belated.

She will kick your ass.

Grayceon as a collective has made quite the metamorphosis over their small existence.
Although they made very good music, there was a certain lack of direction, and much of their music had a ‘very guitar/cello/drum jam session’ feel more than intentional songs, and the general atmosphere was a pretty standard airy post rock with prog sauce feeling.     The distinct lack of bass, and strong inclusion of the Cello certainly made them stand out, and they were all were fantastic musicians, but they’ve certainly come a ways from then.

They’ve traded in ethereal vocals, 20+ minute epics and slow post-rock tropes for screams, blast beats and sludge.  Hippie to Hardcore.

Don’t worry, they’re still very much Grayceon, and there’s plenty of dynamics between soft and loud, light and dark–just used more effectively and creatively.  Jackie still has utmost command of her instrument, and plays it both beautifully and menacingly, but now she’s doing the same thing with her voice–using both her beautiful and otherworldly crooning in conjunction with some pretty intense screams and growls.  Who knew?   And, unlike previous albums, she is pretty much the only vocalist.  It is also very  much a “Prog” or “self-indulgent” affair, so if you’re thinking it’s gone into 3 minute segments of noise, don’t worry: not true at all.   Though there is only a single song over 10 minutes, most run about 7, and there’s enough intense displays of musicianship and dexterity to give any Prog fan a wet dream–but now they can write songs. Be it far from me to call Grayceon poor songwriters for their first two albums, because that really isn’t the case–they never really wrote songs in the traditional sense, more of long epics of instrumental nature.   Vocals were sparse, bridges long, and most songs broke 15 minutes easily.  Now we have some very vocal driven sections, and some very distinguishable and recognizable melodies, riffs and themes, and they only add to the charm of the band, running from languid Cello and Guitar interplay with Jackie singing over it to metal riffing and blast beats, and transitioning well.  Not an easy task.

Grayceon, and Jackie in particular, know how to use a Cello, but not only as a single instrument, but within the context of a (now) fairly heavy band.  They’ve always been able to do this, mind you, but within a more post rock format, a Cello is pretty common.   Unless you’re Apocalyptica or just using it for an intro or interlude, Metal doesn’t do Cellos very often–or frankly, very well.  Now that they’ve taken a lot more of an aggressive and fast-paced stance on writing, the Cello takes an even more important role of counter-point and juxtaposition–it adds a welcome flavor to both the quiet, introspective parts and the loud, abrasive parts.  Whether it’s slowly drifting over acoustic guitar licks or raging over blast beats, the mixing has it high enough to be effective and integral to the music, and balanced enough to not be “Cello ft. guitar and drum” nonsense.  It’s quite hard to make something almost incompatible with a loud, distorted setting both heard and important in music, so it’s certainly worth noting here.

Musically speaking, as a whole… much more emphasis on songs.  There are still long instrumental passages, plenty of complex parts and atypical time signatures, but each song has recurring themes, variations on said themes, tighter lengths and generally more emphasis on cohesion.  It works; trust me.  Much more memorable guitar melodies, as well as creating atmosphere, also creating riffs and melodies that stick much more effectively with the listener, and give it some punch.  Drums have also taken some classes from a lot of people–you’ve still got post-rock timbre, but you’ve also plenty of prog and metal influences: blast beats make there way onto this album in a few spaces.  I wasn’t kidding.  It’s not overdone, however, and the drums still tie everything down as they did in the past, but I’ll be honest and say the new variety is a welcome change.   It’s hard to explain without having had you listen to all of their previous works first, but you can tell melody and memorability are much stronger here.

In short, we’ve gone from including a handful of genres (prog, post rock) to adding influences from death metal, sludge and even hardcore.  It’s much more varied, memorable, and dare I say, well written.

An album this good really should speak for itself, however.  It has a lot for everyone, though it is obviously going to click more with people who have a taste for the heavy.  However, fans of Grayceon should have no problem picking it up and listening–it’s still them.   It’s dynamic, interesting and memorable.  Chances are this will end up on my end of the year lists, and if you listen I’m sure you’ll see why.  It’s worth it.

Cello and blast beats.  Do it.

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