Guest Contributor: Michael Dallas Miller
I am not a metal guy. Take one look at me or conduct an investigation of any of the reviews I have written and you can easily tell that I am not a metal guy. But, I wasn’t going to let my predisposed tendencies towards folk-driven rock and soul-infused hip hop tell me I wasn’t going to like the new album from once-from Austin band, Giant Squid, just because I knew it was, in some way or another, a metal album.
The opening track, “Panthalassa”, is a dark dirge of a tune—in the beginning—with organ sounds and melodies that cannot be described as anything but creepy. This quickly explodes into shredding guitars, heart-thumping snare hits, and hollering vocal screams. The songs takes a few more hard rock turns before the final note, leaving the listener thinking, “What a hell of a ride!”
Unlike what I might have thought from the opening five minutes of the album, this album is not merely a test in decibel distribution and ear-drum demolition. There is control in the Giant Squid madness with beautiful refrains on tracks like “Mormon Island” (a smooth and straight electronic bike-ride) and “Dead Man Slough,” which takes the reverb only to where it needs to go, avoiding an overkill.
Certain cuts, such as “Throwing A Donner Party At Sea,” move fluidly and quickly, serving as little more than pop songs in length and form, but are no less of a good time. Others are just freaking epic, “Sutterville”, which seems to have musical section than I have nose hairs (which is a lot). Also, the eight-minute conclusion of “Rubicon Wall” drips with pain and anguish in every Fender strum and fiddle hum.
And this is what I have never fully appreciated about metal music. As much as I do not care for the vocals or some of the intensity, I cannot deny the amount of finely-tuned orchestration on The lchthyologist. Nearly every song will take you up, then down, back right, over to the left, in directions you didn’t even know existed. It’s like the Willy Wonka Elevator from hell (and I mean that as a compliment).