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Grayceon - All We Destroy CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.68 | 34 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Long Live the Queen

Metal and prog are musical genres dominated by men both on stage and in the audience. Many of the women in these bands function as eye candy or at best as skilled vocalists. I can think of no prog metal band where the musical brains rest inside a female noggin. Until Grayceon. To be fair, cellist / vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz is simply the lead actor in a trio of talented musicians, all of whom contribute essential aspects to the band's sound. On ALL WE DESTROY, Gratz' vocals have improved significantly, to the point that they are now a true focal point of the band's sound. Jackie joined fellow "post rock plus" band Giant Squid for their last album, and clearly came back home with some new skills and ideas. She's also lent her cello to numerous other metal project's, including Agalloch's recent MARROW OF THE SPIRIT. The band's entire sound has been an exercise in making heavy music around her classically trained cello skills, and the result has left reviewer after reviewer scrambling to try to define a genre for the band. My best label is "chamber metal" and I would cue prog listeners by saying that Grayceon sounds a little like a cross between Maudlin of the Well and Univers Zero.

Now on their third album, the trio truly have found their groove and it's a sound that really has never been done before save by themselves. Gratz uses an electric cello, downtuned, and plays composed lines the weave in and out of the music as an essential part of the sound. Similarly, guitarist Max Doyle utilizes a custom low tuning on six string, played with fingers rather than pick. (This is extremely rare in metal.) Drummer Jack Farwell pulls in jazzy cymbal work, organic grooves, and even occasional blast beats to fill plenty of the space left by the absense of a bass player. In the past, vocal duties were shared between Doyle and Gratz, but now Doyle simply provides support (often very dark harmonies) to Jackie. Though the vocals are more prominent than on previous albums, they still act more as another layer in the sound rather than the center around which the rest of the music finds its place. Often lines are repeated in an eerie mantra-like quality that adds to the dark nature of the music in general.

ALL WE DESTROY opens with "Dreamer Deceived" which after a very brief intro hits us with a guttural scream, just to make sure we know we're in the land of metal. The refrain of "I can't comprehend how you left me with the bloody knife" introduces the vocal style and we get some sludgy riffing which all gets the mind ready for what's to come. Just as the piece start to get a little stale, we get "Shellmounds," one of the centerpieces of the album. Much more complex, the song begins with a triplet guitar figure, builds to a galloping metal rhythm backed by blast beats, only to slow again before an intense finish. The album's title theme comes from this song with an obvious nod to DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. Next comes the only true epic of the album "We Can," which features several solo spots for Gratz's cello, some pastoral proggy parts in 3 reminscent of Opeth, and another dramatic climax. "Once a Shadow" is probably the most melodic song on the album, and includes a descending chromatic theme that alludes to "Chim-Chim-Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins that still works within the sad, dark theme. (I did mention these guys were hard to pin down didn't I?) "A Road Less Travelled" is another strong composition, but probably stands out the least on the album. The album ends with "War's End" which is probably the softest piece on the album and features some nice word play and a gentle send off that makes me want to turn around and start the album right over again.

While the band has said that ALL WE DESTROY is not a themed album like the previous THIS GRAND SHOW, it clearly centers around genuine intellectual reflection on ideas of violence. What's more, the album's coherence as a whole is superior as the pacing and variation in the music is perfect. By the end of previous albums I was a little worn out. Not here. The band really has honed their craft to a point that they may have produced the signature effort of their career. At this point, this is the best album of 2011 for me, and actually bests every album of 2010 as well. In a year that looks to be a great one for prog and metal, Ms. Gratz and her buds are going to be hard to catch.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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