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Grayceon - All We Destroy CD (album) cover



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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.

Report this review (#410019)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Grayceon's new album "All We Destroy", while bringing a relatively fresh approach to the concept of progressive metal, ends up quickly becoming stale and repetitive, with many of their more creative choices of direction being essentially reduced to gimmickry. It becomes clear quickly why much of the instrumental focus is directed toward Jackie Gratz's electric cello, as the guitar and drum work ultimately plays out to a series of ineffective and repetitious riffage, which becomes painfully apparent on the sprawling seventeen-minute track "We Can", which would have been far more suited to being a composition closer to the six-minute mark, carrying fewer truly engaging musical ideas than most, if not all, of the other tracks on the album.

That's not to say that the album is a total loss, however. Jackie's vocals are, on balance, quite good (although, sadly, somewhat limited in their use, as the band focuses more on instrumentation), and the two songs bookending "We Can", "Shellmounds" and "Once A Shadow" are surprisingly strong efforts that make you realize how much talent the project has, and yet how little of it seemed to be used on the rest of the album.

Overall, the end result felt more like a glorified solo album than a cohesive effort between musicians, but yet at the same time makes me curious to see what else this band may have up their sleeves in the future. I'd consider this album a strong pass for all but fans of cello metal, but still put these guys down as a band to watch for in the future.

Report this review (#411090)
Posted Friday, March 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'All We Destroy' - Grayceon (7/10)

A band largely defined by their running vocal harmonies and heavy use of cello in their sludge metal sound, Grayceon have certainly turned heads with their self-titled debut, and dramatic follow-up 'This Grand Show'. With recent collaborations with such bands as Giant Squid and Agalloch under their frontwoman's belt, the band was already fairly established within post-metal circles before the release of their third, latest work 'All We Destroy'. Doing what a good follow-up should, the third album builds upon its predecessors by adding a few new layers to their already unique sound. Although the band still has their weaknesses to contend with, it is clear that Grayceon's strikingly distinctive sound is the best thing they have going for them.

Concise metal drumming, crushing downtuned riffs and organic string sections make up the core of Grayceon's sound. Instrumentally, the band has always been able to create a very distinct voice for themselves that screams their name almost instantly. In a music world now filled with all too many copycats, it is to the band's great credit that they have a unique sound to them. When it comes to actually channeling this sound properly however, the results can be mixed at times. Although Grayceon is in no dearth of intelligence when it comes to their keen and surprisingly technical music, there are moments in 'All We Destroy' where the talent still feels unharnessed and too raw for its own good. Among these would be the drawn out instrumentations of the seventeen minute sweeping track 'We Can', which get a tad too indulgent, almost to the point where the doomy riffs and atmosphere is leading nowhere. Be that as it may, Grayceon remain masters of dynamic, and their contrast between warm post-rock sections and sludgy heaviness has never been stronger. Better yet, each of Grayceon's members are represented equally here in the mix, which only adds to the existing dimension.

An issue I've had with Grayceon that has often kept me at bay from considering myself a fan of the band are the vocals which play overtop the clever musicianship. The dual singing and running male-female harmonies that were so prevalent on the debut really turned me off; while not being necessarily unpleasant, they felt somewhat aimless and did not feel as if they complimented the rest of the music properly. Fortunately, Grayceon's lead singer (and cellist) Jackie Perez-Gratz has upped her vocal chops here, and the dual singing gimmick has been greatly moderated, to the point where it can actually accentuate parts instead of making the vocal element in Grayceon feel monotonous. She has a distinctive lower female range, and the tone of the voice itself works well in tandem with the downtuned guitars and cello. However, the vocal melodies themselves often feel somewhat lackluster, especially in the heavier moments. The opener 'Dreamer Deceived' revolves around a recurring vocal theme by Gratz that holds little weight to it, and can get a little irritating by the end. On the other hand, the vocal moments of the more subtle tracks 'Once A Shadow' and 'War's End' are nearly angelic.

The highlight here is- without a doubt- 'Shellmounds', which was released a short while before the album itself came out. It features Grayceon at what sounds like their tightest; beautifully intentioned post-rock passages, thrashy riffing, wonderful dynamic, and a sense of moderation that is simply masterful. While much of the album does not reach this level of perfection that 'Shellmounds' sets out, it becomes more difficult to ignore the sombre majesty of the band's sound with each new listen. 'All We Destroy' has its fair share of flaws, but it's the towering strengths of Grayceon's tact and sound which make the album an excellent one.

Report this review (#451388)
Posted Monday, May 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 6/10

"All We Destroy" is a bit disappointing but still a decent and original metal album.

Grayceon is a band I've wanted to check out for a while. I'm glad I did. 'All We Destroy' is their third album, and it seems like it's being recognized as their best so far, put in comparison to their 2007 self titled debut and their sophomore effort 'This Grand Show'. But 'All We Destroy' wasn't as good as I thought it would be, honestly.

Grayceon's sound is one of the most original in the modern progressive metal scene: the band has three members, Max Doyle on guitars and vocals, Zack Farwell on drums and Jackie Perez Gratz on electric cello and vocals, which is definitely the most noticeable original element of Grayceon's music. Since the instruments are three, the sound here is not at all huge, but very reserved and closed up. There are no wall of sounds, no gigantic riffs (despite the music is somewhat influenced by Sludge Metal), and this is a low point for me. Also, the electric cello ma turn some people off, like it did with me in a few moments. The production is a little rough, but what is impeccable is the mixing , especially concerning the drums, that sound so precise and sharp, in a way that I've never heard before. The vocals though are a little lazy sounding at times, but in others, especially when Gratz really takes it out, it gives a very unique tone.

The album has some low and high points; 'Dreamer Deceived' has a very dramatic and tense atmosphere, 'Shellmounds' is more haunting and calm. The seventeen minute 'We Can' has some great moments as well, even though sometimes a little forgettable. Some slower songs are more present in the second half of the album, starting with 'Once A Shadow', and ending with 'War's End', two decent songs. 'A Road Less Travelled' is more like the first half of the album, more energetic and forceful.

An album that didn't exactly capture me, but they're some moments here that I keep coming back to. Whoever like their progressive metal to have some original and different elements is welcome to check this out.

Report this review (#456082)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hello, this is cello

Chamber metal. Hah, perfect name for a style Grayceon presents on their third full-length record entitled ALL WE DESTROY and released by Profound Lore Records, a label renowned for hosting such bands as Agalloch and Altar of Plagues. It is dark, imaginative, organic, unusual and very, very genuine concept album. And there's cello. And the cellist is a woman. And she sings in the album! Mother of God!!!

"Organic" and "chamber" are the words that come to my mind while listening to ALL WE DESTROY. Thanks to masterfully performed, downtuned guitar passages, the sound is not flat, despite the absence of bass guitar (cool, right?). All instruments sound both natural and clean. The production is organic to the extent of giving me an impression of a live concert in a little music club! Really, really great work.

The music played by Grayceon is called chamber metal as it incorporates chamber orchestration provided by the cellist Jackie Perez Gratz and "pickless" yet heavy guitar playing by Max Doyle. Alternatively it's often tagged post metal for it's diversity of genres from outside the metal one - classical, post-rock and progressive rock music. Songs in ALL WE DESTROY are full of well flowing passages and despite their length, every track seems to have its own identity. They drag on a bit sometimes but hey, none of them is overdone! As for vocals by Mrs Gratz, there's still some space for improvement but it can be safely said, that her relatively low pitched voice and emotionally charged singing can send a shiver down your spine.

Grayceon is gradually mastering an incredibly demanding style they have created and become more and more self-confident with every album. While ALL WE DESTROY can be a bit tiresome experience, its freshness and beauty outweighs all of its drawbacks. If you're into chamber music, yearning for fresh approach to progressive metal or just want to experience something genuinely emotional, get this album!

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 9/10[fantastic!]: Shellmounds; A Road Less Traveled || 8/10[great]: We Can || 7/10[very good]: Once A Shadow; War's End; Dreamer Deceived ||

-- Originally posted on --

Report this review (#629305)
Posted Thursday, February 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The setup of Electric Cello, Guitar, Drums, and a mix of male and female vocals, on a Post-Metal album, could not sound more interesting, so I was expecting something rather special. And it is somewhat special, the cello is unique and do make a 'different' sound, but when you get used to it, and listen to the album without paying special attention to the Cello, it does not stick out that much, and what you got is relative straight forward metal most of the time.

There are moments of Cello driven 'classic' inspired music, works especially well on the 17 min. 'We Can'.

All in all, this is too standard Heavy Metal, to make my water boil, its ok, but not at all essential, I can creep up to a 3 star rating, helped by the fine 'Shellmounds' and the even better Epic 'We Can'.

The ballade 'Once a shadow' is relatively forgettable, and attempt on something different, almost a bit 'Gentle Gaint'ish, but the melody nothing special. And the shifts in and out of 'heavy' parts, predictable.

The finishing track War's End, is a piece of calm chamber music, with a soft mellow song. A fine ending, although it seems somewhat misplaced, on this already confused Metal album.

Prog Heavy and Prog. Metal today, is at a very high level, Crayceon's All We Destroy, is well below the top mark. The concept is no doubt interesting, but they have to do better, to make it stand out from all those other bands.

Report this review (#794982)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2012 | Review Permalink

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