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Griot - Gerald CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.88 | 43 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars It's always exciting to see young bands emerging playing all kinds of progressive rock styles, and it's even better when they're displaying admirable technical and melodic skills from the get-go, putting out superb works right from the very start of their careers. Portuguese trio Griot, formed in 2014 and having connections to crossover band Esfera, tick so many boxes, incorporating everything from symphonic prog, heavier bursts, ambitious orchestration and lightly jazzy touches, all topped off with strong accessible melodies and sleek vocals in their eclectic mix, plus their teasing little 33-minute debut album `Gerald' is a concept work to boot - nothing like the confidence of working in a proudly self-indulgent proggy tradition on launch!

Indexed into five chapters, opener `The Drive' is frequently up-tempo thanks to Sérgio Ferreira's snappy nimble drumming and multi-instrumentalist João Pascoal's dreamy chiming guitars and pumping bass building a gentle jazzy momentum. There's plenty of eerie washes of electronics, deliriously peppy synth noodling and sparkling piano that moves between sprightly and ruminative, and Nuno Aleluia's superior English vocals are crisp and soar with plenty of emotion. The first instrumental `Through the Haze' twitches with programmed beats, trickling electronics and heavier dramatic surges. Some elegant and thoughtful late-night saxophone trills quickly remind of `Dark Side.../Wish You Were Here'-era Pink Floyd, and the whole piece is capped off with subtle sweeping orchestration that never overwhelms or becomes bombastic (and some little fleeting pockets of Mellotron and real flute in unison sound lovely!).

`Into the Fold' throws in everything from intelligent striking clarinet, zippy Moog Lines and playful flute leading to a grand climax, and damned if the gentle funkiness and smooth lead and backing vocals wouldn't have sounded out of place of a New Jack Swing album circa late 80's/early 90's ? NOT an insult! `The Curtain Falls' is a vocally rich and dexterous ballad that grows in strength with soothing orchestration and a sudden energetic rush in the final minute, but the group leave their most ambitious work until closer `Fadeaway (Chapter V)'. Brisk jazzy piano, sweeping strings that soar with grace, chunky bass crunches, glistening ambient interludes and colourful psychedelic washes weave around skilfully implemented reprises of past vocal themes, and there's even a fiery bluesy electric guitar solo in the final minutes that holds a little bit of unexpected bite!

A great plus is that the Griot fellas here never sound like they're imitating any better known band, only properly influenced instead to carry their own original ideas forward. The band clearly calling in favours from a bunch of friends and musical acquaintances to fill out the disc with orchestral grandiosity in several moments also makes the album sound suitably sophisticated and lavish - no slumming it with emulated orchestral synths here, thank you very much! Perhaps the short running time is a little disappointing, but think of the disc as a complete suite of music that you might find closing the end of a fuller prog album!

Regardless of how you view it, this debut proves to be extremely addictive, easy to replay and hugely enjoyable due to the tastefulness of the instrumental qualities and the breezy crisp vocals, and if this bright young band of prog-rock hopefuls are already displaying this much potential, imagine how good they'll be with a few more years behind them?

Four stars for a terrific first effort, and bonus points for the lovely cover art and story/booklet that comes with initial copies of the CD!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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