by GIANT SQUID (Experimental/Post Metal)
From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website
Normally when I get a new album, I like to give it at least a few weeks before I write a review, but being that this is an up and coming band and they unfortunately won't get as many reviews as they deserve, I see fit to write on my second day of owning this album. I got it in the mail yesterday morning, after several months of anticipation, and eagerly went and listened instantly. Immediately after, I listened again. At the time of this writing, I've listened to The Ichthyologist six times and so far I have only good things to say about this album. First, a basic overview. It's a concept album, based on a graphic novel by guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gregory, who can explain the concept a bit better than I can:
Through the thoughts of the album's protagonists, a man stripped of his humanity and left with nothing but the sea in front of him, comes a story about adapting in inhuman ways to survive the shock of human loss and total emotional tragedy, becoming something else entirely in the process.
The storyline isn't a very hapy one, I won't ruin it for others with details, but odds are you might need a little cheering up after listening to this. The band sticks with the sea related themes they've been known for throughout their short career.
Musically, the line up has changed from the last album. A new drummer is on board and second guitarist/vocalist Aurielle Gregory was replaced by cellist/vocalist Jackie Perez-Gratz. A number of guest vocalists appear as well as a flautist, an oboe, a violin, and a trumpet. Certainly there is no lack of diversity in instrumentation. There's also no lack of diversity in terms of the music here.
Imagine a giant squid. What does that inspire? Perhaps fear at it's massive size and brutal apearance? But there's also an air of mystery. It's a litle understood creature. If you can translate that into music, it accurately sums up the music of this band.
Panthalassa starts with an intriguing drum part, building into a very aggressive song. Perfect high energy way to start the album.
La Brea Tar Pits is a slower, heavier, doomy song. you can feel a sense of despondency take hold, and can't help but be moved by the desperation here.
Sutterville is a softer song, but still with a very dark atmosphere.
Dead Man Slough is a song that starts off in a deceptively soft and cheerful manner for the subject matter at hand. It then transforms into another crushing dirge.
Throwing a Donner Party at Sea is a remake of a song off their Monster in the Creek EP. This version seems to be more aggressive, and also more organic sounding, with cello taking over for the keys on the original version.
Sevengill starts extremely soft, then becomes possibly the heaviest song on the album, with some very brutal screams courtesy of Aaron. This is possibly my favourite song on the album, it's absolutely awe- inspiring.
Mormon Island is soft and haunting throughout. It's a sort of violin-driven lamentful piece. Soft, but I wouldn't call it a ballad. Towards the end, some banjo joins the violins and celloss to add a nice sonic contrast.
Blue Linckia is another heavy one. The band said that it was probably the most upbeat one on this album, and I agree. Despite the heaviness, several of the riffs used are very triumphant sounding, and the llyrics are of a defiant nature, using the metaphor of a starfish and it's biological ability to regenerate body parts as metaphor for the main character's resiliency.
Emerald Bay is another soft one, with some oboe parts accentuating the lamentful nature of the tune. This song feels like hopelessness set to music, and you get the feeling of someone at peace with the fact that their end is near, knowing that there is no more hope and completely accepting it.
rubicon Wall is a song of release. All the tension that is built up throughout the album is released with Jackie's cello lines. The feeling I get here is one of sorrow, but a peaceful one. There is definitely a feeling of relief that you get listening to this song, but you still want to go back to track one and re-live the journey, however dark it is, again.
I honestly can't say enough good about this band and abum. I didn't think their debut was a masterpiece, but I think it showed a band with potential, a potential I think they've realized here. There's a greater variance in the music here, and they know how to craft a good song, and even though the songs are often long and repetitive, they keep your attention. Sonically, this album is brilliant. The instruments all sound very natural, and the tone is perfect for this music. Down tuned guitars and rock n roll fuzz abound, and balance out nicely with the trumpets, cello, etc. I know it's a limited release, but if you can, I highly recommend you find a copy of The Ichthyologist and hear for yourself just why it is that I'm so excited. This is some of the most honest, sincere, and best executed music out there today, and I think every music fan owes it to themselves to hear Giant Squid at least once. Again, this isn't just fanboy enthusiasm for a new album, this is genuine excitement that is found only upon hearing something I find truly great. Five Stars! Well done Giant Squid! Keep up the good work