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Giant Squid

Experimental/Post Metal

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Giant Squid The Ichthyologist album cover
3.65 | 65 ratings | 9 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Panthalassa (Lampetra tridentata) (5:50)
2. La Brea Tar Pits (Pseudomonas putida) (7:28)
3. Sutterville (Vibrio cholerae) (4:08)
4.Dead Man Slough (Pacifastacus leniusculus) (5:32)
5. Throwing A Donner Party At Sea (Physeter catodon) (5:40)
6. Sevengill (Notorynchus cepedianus) (7:10)
7. Mormon Island (Alluvial Au) (6:39)
8.Blue Linckia (Linckia laevigata) (7:11)
9. Emerald Bay (Prionace glauca) (6:39)
10. Rubicon Wall (Acipenser transmontanus) (7:59)

Total Time (63:48)

Line-up / Musicians

- Aaron Gregory / guitars, banjo, keyboards, vocals
- Jackie Perez Gratz / electric cello, Vocals
- Bryan Beeson / bass
- Chris Melville Lyman / drums

- Karyn Crisis / vocals (5)
- Annekke Van Giersbergen / vocals (6)
- Nate Perkins / trumpet (1,5,8)
- Lorraine Rath / flute (6)
- Cat Gratz / oboe (9)
- Kris Force / violin (7)

Releases information

Artwork: Sam Keith

CD Translation Loss Records ‎- TL37-2 (2009, US)

2xLP Vega Vinyl ‎- VV~005 (2010, US)

Thanks to sean for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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GIANT SQUID The Ichthyologist ratings distribution

(65 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%)
Good, but non-essential (29%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

GIANT SQUID The Ichthyologist reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by sean
5 stars Normally when I get a new album, I like to give it at least a few weeks before I write a review, but being that this is an up and coming band and they unfortunately won't get as many reviews as they deserve, I see fit to write on my second day of owning this album. I got it in the mail yesterday morning, after several months of anticipation, and eagerly went and listened instantly. Immediately after, I listened again. At the time of this writing, I've listened to The Ichthyologist six times and so far I have only good things to say about this album. First, a basic overview. It's a concept album, based on a graphic novel by guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gregory, who can explain the concept a bit better than I can:

Through the thoughts of the album's protagonists, a man stripped of his humanity and left with nothing but the sea in front of him, comes a story about adapting in inhuman ways to survive the shock of human loss and total emotional tragedy, becoming something else entirely in the process.

The storyline isn't a very hapy one, I won't ruin it for others with details, but odds are you might need a little cheering up after listening to this. The band sticks with the sea related themes they've been known for throughout their short career.

Musically, the line up has changed from the last album. A new drummer is on board and second guitarist/vocalist Aurielle Gregory was replaced by cellist/vocalist Jackie Perez-Gratz. A number of guest vocalists appear as well as a flautist, an oboe, a violin, and a trumpet. Certainly there is no lack of diversity in instrumentation. There's also no lack of diversity in terms of the music here.

Imagine a giant squid. What does that inspire? Perhaps fear at it's massive size and brutal apearance? But there's also an air of mystery. It's a litle understood creature. If you can translate that into music, it accurately sums up the music of this band.

Panthalassa starts with an intriguing drum part, building into a very aggressive song. Perfect high energy way to start the album.

La Brea Tar Pits is a slower, heavier, doomy song. you can feel a sense of despondency take hold, and can't help but be moved by the desperation here.

Sutterville is a softer song, but still with a very dark atmosphere.

Dead Man Slough is a song that starts off in a deceptively soft and cheerful manner for the subject matter at hand. It then transforms into another crushing dirge.

Throwing a Donner Party at Sea is a remake of a song off their Monster in the Creek EP. This version seems to be more aggressive, and also more organic sounding, with cello taking over for the keys on the original version.

Sevengill starts extremely soft, then becomes possibly the heaviest song on the album, with some very brutal screams courtesy of Aaron. This is possibly my favourite song on the album, it's absolutely awe- inspiring.

Mormon Island is soft and haunting throughout. It's a sort of violin-driven lamentful piece. Soft, but I wouldn't call it a ballad. Towards the end, some banjo joins the violins and celloss to add a nice sonic contrast.

Blue Linckia is another heavy one. The band said that it was probably the most upbeat one on this album, and I agree. Despite the heaviness, several of the riffs used are very triumphant sounding, and the llyrics are of a defiant nature, using the metaphor of a starfish and it's biological ability to regenerate body parts as metaphor for the main character's resiliency.

Emerald Bay is another soft one, with some oboe parts accentuating the lamentful nature of the tune. This song feels like hopelessness set to music, and you get the feeling of someone at peace with the fact that their end is near, knowing that there is no more hope and completely accepting it.

rubicon Wall is a song of release. All the tension that is built up throughout the album is released with Jackie's cello lines. The feeling I get here is one of sorrow, but a peaceful one. There is definitely a feeling of relief that you get listening to this song, but you still want to go back to track one and re-live the journey, however dark it is, again.

I honestly can't say enough good about this band and abum. I didn't think their debut was a masterpiece, but I think it showed a band with potential, a potential I think they've realized here. There's a greater variance in the music here, and they know how to craft a good song, and even though the songs are often long and repetitive, they keep your attention. Sonically, this album is brilliant. The instruments all sound very natural, and the tone is perfect for this music. Down tuned guitars and rock n roll fuzz abound, and balance out nicely with the trumpets, cello, etc. I know it's a limited release, but if you can, I highly recommend you find a copy of The Ichthyologist and hear for yourself just why it is that I'm so excited. This is some of the most honest, sincere, and best executed music out there today, and I think every music fan owes it to themselves to hear Giant Squid at least once. Again, this isn't just fanboy enthusiasm for a new album, this is genuine excitement that is found only upon hearing something I find truly great. Five Stars! Well done Giant Squid! Keep up the good work

Review by Epignosis
3 stars This album has quite a bit of potential, and I can see it growing on quite a few people, but not me. It seems far too contrived, particularly in the vocals department. Musically, it's quite good, but firstly, there's much better in this category, and secondly, the loud, explosive guitars tend to have a horrible tone.

"Panthalassa (Lampetra tridentata)" With lazily played toms and an exotic guitar theme, the album begins. It abruptly becomes something loud and mildly obnoxious. While the melodic guitars are a plus, the vocals are noisy, whiny, and subtract from an otherwise decent performance.

"La Brea Tar Pits (Pseudomonas putida)" Loud vocals and heavy music continue on this one until two minutes in, when the vocals become a whisper over clean guitar and straightforward drumming. The banjo at the end adds a slight Oriental flavor.

"Sutterville (Vibrio cholerae)" The beginning of this piece has a sultry mood to it, like it could be part of the soundtrack for a movie about a 1920s gumshoe.

"Dead Man Slough (Pacifastacus leniusculus)" This is a bouncier track with pleasant instrumentation. The melody is light and enjoyable, with both a female and male vocalist. The banjo and violin are a great aspect of this piece.

"Throwing A Donner Party At Sea (Physeter catodon)" The gritty bass is amazing in this song, but the song itself is a bit of a mess. Mainly, it's a bouncy rhythm with lots of screeching vocals.

"Sevengill (Notorynchus cepedianus)" Over a soft musical background, the singer remains in growl mode, but it remains in the low register, making the piece almost a sleepy one, but it's still one of the best tracks on the album. The violin is gorgeous, and leads into a powerful, female-fronted section.

"Mormon Island (Alluvial Au)" This soft-spoken track features whispered feminine vocals, distant banjo, and violin the in the forefront.

"Blue Linckia (Linckia laevigata)" Here we have some crashing segments of music interspersed with lovely violin and feminine vocals.

"Emerald Bay (Prionace glauca)" The deep singing sounds terribly manufactured and, while it may actually add to the track, it sounds a little silly by this point. The instrumental section is at once calming and enjoyable.

"Rubicon Wall (Acipenser transmontanus)" Beautiful instrumental layers begin this final track. The feminine vocals on this one do not strike me nearly as much as they did on "Mormon Island," and then there's those blasts of guitar that just sound awful, and even more so when the exaggerated vocals come in. The male vocals are just as bad; they make me cringe.

Review by Prog-jester
3 stars 2009 occurs to be a strange year for my perception of music: favourite bands frequently fail (LACRIMOSA), bands I couldn't get into release awesome works (MASTODON), new discoveries appear on the horizon (AMIA VENERA LANDSCAPE), and so on. But bands whose debuts/previous albums were in my top-lists some years ago, seem to fail me on a regular basis :(

There's nothing criminally wrong with this album, it's pretty listenable and groovy. But it's totally pale when compared to "Metridium Fields". Melodies are bleak, perfomace is average, some songs are too metal-directed, and only "Dead Man Slough" caught me the first week I heard the album. I was returning to it since then, three or four times, but sorry, I didn't like what GS are becoming. It's still a good record, but this time is an ordinary Post-Metal stuff with some intersting leanings, while GS' debut was amazingly experimental in the full meaning of this word. Nuff said.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Indeed, vocals are quite strange. They really reminds me Peter Hammill from Godbluff album, also trying to do his best and has unique voice. And it works, somehow. In fact, I'm still confused and don't know what to think, if it's good, or bad. Which is probably good. Music itself is dissonant, intentionally (not by accident), but as it is, works great his singing. I have to say that when I first heard this, I was shocked and annoyed by many things here. But after few listening, I have to say that it's worthy to give it a chance. As with some other albums, first song can repel you with its aggressiveness. But album itself is ranging from calm (Sutterville, Mormon) songs to death metal soaked ones.

4(-), this record is like haunting pleasure. I like it, just as I would enjoy dangerous-to-life situation.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Anything goes!

That must be the main slogan used by the artists here to fully explore their creativity. The result is a mesmerizing album that explores all areas between the diverse extremes of post-hardcore, eclectic prog and ethereal pop music. I admit, sometimes it's difficult to follow what they are up to. It's a concept album based on a graphic novel from front man Aaron John Gregory. The album takes you from one scene to another and you are bound to tumble from one surprise into another.

It sure takes a couple of listens to fully grasp the range of styles on parade here. Aaron Gregory has a versatile voice with a range between Tom Waits gruffness to an expressive emotional wail that fans of Hammill and VDGG will probably appreciate. One moment you're in Isis atmospheres, then again in Neurosis walls of sound, next it's a gentle violin with the light female voices from Jackie Perez Gratz. Also Anneke Van Giersbergen performs on one track. (Well she's all over the place these days so that's no surprise.) She does a great performance on Sevengill, a bizarre duet with Aaron that is exemplary for this album's eccentricity.

The rich diversity of this album might be the very reason it has taken Giant Squid more then a year to get a record deal: it must be just impossible to market. It's certainly not metal. It has post-metal influences but most of the songs are very quiet and melancholic, almost folksy in a way. It's way too weird for hardcore youngsters, too ambitious for alternative rock fans and it's not prog in any traditional sense of the world. However it might appeal to prog audiences for its eclectic range of styles, the wide array of instruments (trumpet, oboe, flute, violin) and the concept album angle. We always like that don't we!?

We should certainly thank Translation Loss records for supporting a commercial release of this wonderful album (almost a year since it was finished and the band distributed a number of copies themselves). It's become a nice packaging with some inventive artwork, different from the sea star picture here. It's a mutated hand with eye-sockets as fingers now. Could have been a Gentle Giant artwork I'd say. It's no coincidence this band is called Giant Octopus isn't it?

Review by EatThatPhonebook
2 stars When I found this album around in prog archives, I thought I should give it try. It's not a bad album, but many times it falls down to a low level, especially in the second part of the album.

"The Ichthyologist" sounds a lot like, thanks to the fuzzy and heavy guitars and the desperate sounding vocals( many times it sounds like " System Of A Down", music from the bottom of an ancient ocean,or a deep, deep hole in the earth. The first track is the best one of the album, "Panthalassa". Absolutely love the guitars, so crude and violent, the drums really give the sensation of archaic. Even the second track is really good, longer than the first one, even this one is violent, aggressive in many points, calm in other. The two following tracks are very mellow, like all the second part of the album, and not really worth the mention for me.

"Throwing a donner party" is another great song, really worth the listen, with a catchy chorus, always being faithful to their more aggressive style.

The second part of the album is REALLY disappointing, I could barely finish the whole thing. Is it just me, or are Giant Squid not so good in writing ballads and mellow songs? Anyway, I didn't like it at all, in one word: Boring!

In conclusion it's a good album, with nice ideas, but even bad ones. I know they could have done a much better work.

Review by Negoba
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.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This being the first album I heard from this American band, I did not know what to expect given the Post-Metal tag. The music here generally is not metal, it could almost fit in Eclectic. The most metal sounding parts are some of the guitar riffs. Even though this is not very metal, I can hear an influence from System Of A Down here. I haven't heard their first album yet so I don't know if it sounds any different. In addition to the guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, there is banjo and electric cello. Guest musicians play oboe, violin, flute and trumpet. There are guest female vocalists as well as the versatile singing of bandleader Aaron Gregory. The album was based on a concept of his.

Although the cover featured here is good, there is a better alternate cover showing a hand with a mouth and eyeballs on the end of the fingers. Cool looking. I have to admit this is one of those albums where I like it the more I hear it. The song titles are long with Latin subtitles (fake Latin?). "Panthalassa (Lampetra tridentata)" has a good marching snare drum. Nice trumpet in this song. The main heavy riff is not bad either. "Sutterville (Vibrio cholorae)" is a nice easy going light jazzy song. An effect is put on an overdubbed female vocal at one point, which is a nice contrast to the other vocals. Male and female wordless harmony vocals in the middle. Gets more 'rock' sounding near the end. Cricket noises to end it.

"Dead Man Slough (Pacifastacus Ieniusculus)" is a highlight. Love the guitar and Tom Waits-like vocals. Nice mix of electric guitar and banjo here. Good violin work. I like the break in the middle with the female vocals. We get a heavy riff near the end. "Sevengill (Notorynchus cepidianus)" has what sounds like a ship's horn blaring at the beginning, followed by guitar, vocals and drums. Basically a ballad. Nice flute during the 'chorus' part. Some great electric cello at one point. Gets louder and heavier near the end with some double-tracked female vocals. Ends with the sound of seagulls.

"Mormon Island (Alluvial Au)" is a slow-paced mellow song with no drums. Mostly female vocals, violin and electric cello. The song kind of drags on and brings the quality of the album down a bit. Nice banjo near the end, though. "Emerald Bay (Prionace glauca)" has the Tom Waits-style vocals again. The music is based around guitar strums. Some good electric cello in this song. "Rubicon Wall (Acipenser transmontanus)" has a cool riff that starts almost halfway; it comes back later. I like the vocals during that riff. This song changes quite a bit and is one of the more interesting songs on the album.

This is a great album which surpassed my expectations. I'll have to check out their first album some time. It's nice to see modern bands attempting to do something different. The results can always vary of course, but here things generally work out for the best. I don't know who to recommend this to, but it's recommendable. 4 stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Music for the end of days. With their self-released 2nd full lenght album, Giant Squid have themselves a masterpiece of exotic metal. While catagorizing their brand of music proves to be difficult, The Ichthyoligist is nothing short of immense. Elements of doom carry over from their first albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#228641) | Posted by Sgt. Smiles | Monday, July 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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