TEETH OF THE DIVINE
Based on vocalist/guitarist Aaron Gregory’s own nautical writings, The Ichthyologist unfortunately did not get the PR, press push and full release it deserved after the tragic death of band Publicist Adrian Bromley. However, after a personal request from member Jackie Perez Gratz (Grayceon) to give Giant Squid’s second full length album some much deserved coverage-how could I refuse?
The band’s first album, Metridium Fields, seemed to be a perfect fit for The End Records, taking experimental post rock on its head with chants, brass sections and an off kilter sense of ambition that defied categorization, and while The Ichthyologist sticks to the same tenets, it’s a far more laid back and structured album, that’s more in line with Gratz’s other project Grayceon.
While the maritime/nautical concept of the album may be responsible for the album’s more fluid, shimmering, and ebbing rock based sound, the overall backbone of the band is the same with a quirky tone with Gregory’s Serj Tankian like voice, some screams, some gruff roars, some trumpets, some cellos and a non conformist approach to song writing. Still - as off the wall as it all sounds, it’s far more structured and reigned in, and thusly more enjoyable than Metridium Fields. The songs are shorter and more focused with nothing going over 8 minutes as opposed to the 9 and 21 minute largely overdrawn and programming heavy forays of the last album.
On the whole, Gratz’s cello (and at times vocals) on the more languid, relaxing tracks like “La Brea Tar Pits”, “Sutterville”, “Dead Man Slough”, “Mormon Island”, “Sevengill”, mesmerizing ballad “Emerald Bay” and excellent “Blue Linkia” is more prevalent, certainly cementing the more Grayceon like hues of the album. There are only a couple of spurts of off kilter post/lounge rock such as “Panthalassa”, “Throwing a Donner Party at Sea” and hypnotic closer “Rubicon Wall”, that still ensure that the album is tangibly Giant Squid, just more gentle in its experimental throes. However, the lessened presence of Gregory’s vocals may be a benefit as his distinct chant/shout may be a sticking point with some listeners.
Giant Squid have never been and never will be for everyone, but the more laid back, less chaotic and less rangy tone of The Ichthyologist makes them a much easier pill to swallow, but still deserving of a record deal. The beautiful card bound digipack album was limited to a 1000 copies meant to promote the band and get a record deal, so get it now and spread the word.
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Written by Erik Thomas
March 16th, 2009