Self-released (limited to 1000 copies)
I first became aware of Giant Squid when they opened for one of my favorite bands, The Gathering, for a show at the Middle East in March of 2006. I remember I was intrigued by their unique sound, and at the time made a mental note to check them out a bit more after the show. Then The Gathering played an amazing set and wiped out all memories I had of anything before they hit the stage. A year or so later, I finally got around to picking up their debut, Metridium Fields, which I found to be a very interesting mix of experimental and progressive metal, with a strong doom feeling. Jump ahead to 2009, and the band find themselves self-releasing their latest, The Ichthyologist, in a limited (1000 copies) format. This is a concept album, based on a graphic novel of the same name by founding member/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/lyricist/etc Aaron Gregory.
So, musically, what can you expect from the latest Giant Squid opus? A wide range of styles, mostly rooted in metal, but ranging wildly in all directions. Progressive, experimental, and far reaching would be terms that describe it well. Instruments include your standard guitar/bass/drums, but we also get plenty of other stuff - like a cello (played by Grayceon's Jackie Perez Gratz), trumpet, oboe, flute and banjo. And, they all fit perfectly into the musical compositions laid out here by the band.
"Panthalassa (Lampetra Tridentata)" is the opener, taking us on a journey from a quiet opener with the cello being the focus, to some fiercely heavy parts where the distorted guitar and shouted vocals take the stage (albeit with a trumpet blaring alongside). "La Brea Tar Pits (Pseudomonas Putida)" is a bit spacey and psychadelic for about 3/4 of the song, but ends up with some thrashing riffs before fading out with a solo banjo playing. Pretty interesting and far-reaching stuff so far. "Sutterville (Vibrio Cholerae)" changes things up yet again, with a sound that would fit in nicely at a small jazz cafe, and the majority of the vocals provided here by Jackie.
The highlight of the disc for me is "Sevengill (Notorynchus Cepedianus)", not only because it is a great song, but because it features a guest appearance from one of my favorite vocalists, Anneke van Giersbergen. The first half of the song sounds as if it could be the soundtrack to an old Film Noir from the 40's or 50's, with it's slow, dark and dreary feel, and Aaron's smokey vocals providing the aurally photographic setting for such a film scene. The song picks up bigtime for the last 1/3 or so, with Anneke's powerful voice being joined by a much more gruff attack by Aaron. "Blue Linckia (Linckia Laevigata)" is also a highlight, mainly because of the emotional feeling of both the music and the vocals (and even the lyrics).
Giant Squid certainly isn't going to be for everyone, but they should be. They have no boundaries on their music, either in terms of style or substance. They experiment with all sorts of stuff, weaving in non-standard instrument perfectly well in their musical compositions. If you have an open mind and want to listen to some truly good music, then Giant Squid is for you. Get on over to the bands myspace page and order a copy for yourself, before they're all gone.