Grayceon - This Grand Show
San Francisco's Grayceon offer a reviewer plenty to talk about with their second release, This Grand Show . This three piece band utilize a rather different set up from most bands in that they make their music using only drums, guitar, cello, with dual vocals. Fans of Giant Squid will instantly recognise the distinctive vocals and playing style of cellist Jackie Perez Gratz, but Grayceon are far more than an extension of her other band.
There are moments in the songs where similarities between the two bands spring up, as the cello and guitar ring in unison with the eerie echoed vocals that form the basis for Giant Squid's post-metal sound, but these comparisons are quickly crushed. Grayceon create music that at one moment verges on the fragile then the next lurches over and rips open a riff most metal bands wish they had written. Some of the joint guitar and cello work on "Still The Desert" would not be out of place on Metallica's S&M album or the Metallica covers released by Apocalyptica. That's not to say the sounds coming from this record are mainstream metal, very far from it. Grayceon use soft plucked guitar and cello to build atmosphere around the songs before they lurch forward and smash out a passage of music that would no doubt leave a live audience no option but to headbang along.
Many would expect the sound of a three piece set up such as this to be lacking and sound like something is missing. This Grand Show does not suffer from only having the three members and a large part of its success is due to the intricate, high energy work of drummer Zack Farwell. His drumming is comparable to that of a more controlled Brann Dailor of Mastodon; Farwell is not one to use the standard drumming formula but inserts drum fills to beef out the sound and complement his fellow members duelling instruments. It's invigorating to hear three instruments recorded as they would sound live; there is no added second guitar or bass, just three talented musicians using their instruments and voices to create a massive sound.
The album flows well using this interaction between the strings and the drums, and this interplay allows for slick transitions in the passages of songs such as "It Begins, And So It Ends" and "This Grand Show Is Eternal", where the songs jump from chilling post-metal to thrash with relative ease. Even the sprawling "Love Is (A Dream)" produces moments of ferocious sounds before falling away to more dreamy cello and guitar interaction without ever feeling like its an idea being stretched too far.
The only point in the album where an idea seems to fall flat is the middle song titled "Sleep." This twenty-one minute beast seems to encompass three different seven minute songs, two of which are very good pieces of work. The middle section, however, is comprised of background noises created by the overlapping guitar and cello that go nowhere. It is preceded by another fine example of their seamless ability to move from quiet to loud, which has a clear ending before the directionless segment of noise filters in. As the instruments begin to work together again, they build to create a slow burning song which they don't attempt anywhere else on the album. But, by the time the dual vocals are swirling round the slow molten drums, it is to late to save the track.
To an extent the record label was right: it is hard to compare Grayceon to other bands. The experimental post-metal bands, such as Giant Squid, are not as ferocious, nor are the heavier bands as creative and refreshing as parts of this diverse record. Despite the decision to release "Sleep" as one long song This Grand Show is an album that is full of inventive ideas played out in a unique style that leaves a gulf of textbook post-rock/metal hordes in its wake.