Saturday, September 5, 2009

Giant Squid live show review in Slug Magazine

Giant Squid @ Burt's Tiki Lounge
by Conor Dow []
Online Exclusive / Posted August 10, 2009 More Exclusives
Giant Squid
Burt’s Tiki Lounge

My Father, who was an accomplished swimmer in college, once told me that he feels more comfortable swimming in water than walking on land. For my 12th birthday he put me in scuba diving school. I vividly remember that my first experience of breathing under water with scuba diving gear resulted in glee and laughter, and since that moment I’ve been infatuated with submerging myself beneath the surface of the water for a breath of compressed air.

Needless to say, in 2005 when a band called Giant Squid inked a deal to release their first album with The End Records, my interest was more than piqued. If you happened to read my review of their second album The Ichthyologist (May 2009), you may have noticed that I was bowled over about how good it was. Music that is heavily riff-based and creates an atmosphere of oceanic depth weaved with elusive, yet interesting lyrics is a genre that is not exactly tapped out. After having the pleasure of seeing Giant squid open up for Agalloch up in Portland, Oregon in 2006, I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss seeing them play their new material here in Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately due to extenuating circumstances, I missed the opening band Grayceon, who I am somewhat new to, but was really looking forward to seeing. Shortly after I arrived, Giant Squid began to play.

The set began with “Panthalassa (Lampetra Tridentata),” and as expected most of the material they played was from their newest album. Something about the dismal atmosphere at Burt’s combined with all of the band’s equipment provided a rather dirty and extra sea-sick feel to their songs. Burt’s had become our vessel and everyone in the audience was clearly into it.

The band has been through quite a lot of lineup changes in the past several years, racking up a large amount of former contributors. To my knowledge, the only two remaining original members are Bryan Beeson on bass guitar, and mastermind Aaron Gregory who performs vocals, lead guitars and is responsible for the concept of their newest album. Tonight it was a five piece with Jackie Perez Gratz, who also performs with Grayceon, on electric cello and backing vocals.

For me, Giant Squid always manages to create a great mood of wonderment and childlike adventuring. I think much of this has to do with the vocals. Aaron’s vocals are often compared to Serj Tankian of System of a Down, however I disagree. A much more accurate comparison would be Roger Waters, and with Jackie’s backing vocals Giant Squid manages to create a dynamic similar to Pink Floyd where one member sings beautifully while the other sings with a voice that relies on unrest and inner turmoil, largely responsible for much of the story telling in each song. I’m convinced that this is no accident, and is extremely integral to the overall journey they wish to take their listeners on.

The band wrapped up with two tracks from their first album, Metridium Fields. Although I love this album, their new material eclipses it in many ways, and this was affirmed to me as they played. The last track performed was a shortened version of the track “Metridium Field,” which is an epic twenty-one minutes on compact disc. It was a very heavy and fitting way to end a fantastic night.

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