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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso - Grim CD (album) cover

GRIM

Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

 

Eclectic Prog

3.76 | 12 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What's this, a concept album? A selection of episodes in the lives of the townsfolk of Grimroyd, an infamous industrial haven of northern England - "It was cold, it was wet, but most of all, it was ... Grim!" - complete with the remnants [salvaged from the ashes of a disastrous fire at Grimroyd's towering Dibnah Theatre] of a suitably tacky musical. Lloyd-Webber had better watch out!

This, the latest, and possibly best, of Woolly Wolstenholme's musings sees his old chum Kim Turner back in the fold taking over the drum stool from Kevin Whitehead. Otherwise it is business as usual and musically, Grim follows the format of its predecessor, perhaps a touch tighter and more focussed, the sound of a band well into its stride. We are unlikely to meet with any surprises, given the mature career point reached by Woolly and the band, but Grim certainly shows them continuing to hone their art. What they lack in youthful exuberance is more than compensated by the sheer quality of musicianship.

While acoustic, and particularly 12 string, guitars have become ever more prominent in their output, the first sound heard here is the Mellotron, a welcome pointer that all is going to be well. And indeed it is, with all the necessary ingredients in their proper places: a variety of keyboards including authentic orchestral effects amongst classic Hammond and Mellotron; Steve Broomhead's guitar work stronger and better than ever; backed up by an excellent tight yet sympathetic rhythm section equally at home handling soft loping passages or forceful rock work-outs.

Lyrically, Grim is paradoxically less dark than its predecessor. Subjects range from insightful comments on relationships [Through A Storm and Kim Turner's That's The Price You Pay], via barbed reflections on modern society [The Iceman Cometh and Location, Location, Location], and studies in escapism [A Lark and Hebden Bridge] to a modern adaptation of an old English folk song [Harp + Carp], though I have to say that two soppy love songs on the same album [Love Is and Pas De Deux] is at least one too many for my taste!

Musically, the album stretches, in Woolly's trademark shapeshifting style, from gentle acoustic ballad to grand anthemic statement, encompassing some rockist moments along the way. Stand-out Prog tracks include opener Through A Storm, which progresses from big fanfare to small vocal and back in classic Woolly style embracing some Mellotron and Hackett-like guitar along the way, while Hebden Bridge is another all time favourite, reminiscent of Trick Of The Tail era Genesis, with a dreamy acoustic opening building to a fantastic majestic crescendo of soaring guitars and abundant Mellotron. It doesn't get much better than that!

Joolz | 4/5 |

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