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Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist CD (album) cover


Giant Squid


Experimental/Post Metal

3.65 | 58 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Many Tentacled Monster Music

Giant Squid's ICTHYOLOGIST gets credit for one of the coolest album covers of 2009, with alternate images being even better. (The tentacled hand with a central mouth is nicely spooky.) This album was my introduction to the band, who had made a splash with their debut a few years earlier. ICTHYOLOGIST features numerous guest musicians, and the addition of Grayceon's Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and vocals as a full member. But the center of the sound is Aaron Gregory who provides a low crunchy guitar grind and whining strident vocals that are definitely reminiscent of System of a Down's Serj Tankian.

Giant Squid's music combines sludgy grooves with a slightly avant aesthetic and a variety of surprises on instrumentation to create a sound that would definitely qualify as "Art Metal." There are allusions to stage music, though almost always in a minor key or at least a dark tone. Gregory takes a few cues from Mr. Bungle and adopts some odd character voices a la Patton. He has some interesting vocal interplay with Gratz throughout the album, and Anneke van Giersbergen on "Sevengill." The male / female combo adds a nice texture that certainly pulls the music above virtually all grunted post-metal.

There are no bad tracks on the album, but "Panthalassa," "Throwing a Donner Party," "Mormon Island," and "Sevengill" stand out. "Donner Party" is probably the fastest song on the album, and is sorely needed among the overall draggy pace of the disc. Here Gregory's lyrics get so strained that they remind of the B-52's Fred Schneider. Nate Perkins' trumpet appears on the first two, and is a welcome element that adds a sense of lift as well. The last track mentioned actually evokes the deep sea and the monsters found there. Starting in a slow march, it develops to include a great cello solo line, a soaring vocal by Anneke, and Gregory yelling forth in agony.

As with all post-metal, the dragging-a-stone-though-mud pacing can get old after awhile. The Squid does as well as anyone to add enough interest to fight this, and might not even qualify as post-metal as a result. I imagine some really enjoy staying in this mode for this amount of time. But no matter how well rendered, being at the bottom of the dark, cold, lonely sea gets a little uncomfortable after a while. By the time we get to the final three tracks, I'm wore out. Also by the 8th track, I feel like the band has shown its whole hand. This certainly isn't a fatal drawback, by I'm certainly not going to put this album on repeat.

There is some really nice stuff on this album. If you like arty metal and are looking for something new, this is probably a good pickup. It's somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star album. However, related artist Grayceon is a bit better in my opinion and I just gave them a 4 star rating. And I'm not sure it would be an excellent part of "any prog rock collection." Prog metal maybe. It's possible I could bump up the rating in the future.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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