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GRAILS

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United States


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Grails biography
Founded in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1999

Grails is a band that started out as a simple side-project or hobby by Alex Hall along with Paul Spitz on guitar, Emil Amos (Holy Sons) on drums and guitar, Timothy Horner (Jackie-O Motherfucker) on violin, and William Slater on bass and keyboards. All of them decided to tour around and play some selected shows under the moniker Laurel Canyon. While touring the band also released 2 EPs and caught the attention of Michael Gira (Swans, Angels of Light) which he wanted them to open for his band. Michael also sent a demo of the band to Neurot Recordings where Steve Von Till was more than glad to sign them. Quickly after the band got signed they changed their name to Grails and also replaced Paul Spitz with Zak Riles.

Grails then started writing music for their debut album, "The Burden of Hope", which was released in 2003. The Burden of Hope showed Grails at its most Post-Rock sounding time with notable nods to bands like Dirty Three and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. In 2004 they released their second album, "Redlight", which showed the band delving slightly into new territory, but many fans and critics still viewed them as a Post-Rock act.

Grails started to re-invent themselves after all of the things that happened through its life span. In late 2004, while in Europe, Grails was invited to play for Southern Records on a series called Latitudes. The result of this recording session was: "Latitudes: Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs from Around the World". The EP was released in 2005 and showcased the band heading into new directions, one that shows the band delving deeply into psychedelic, Celtic, and Prog territory while still having a strong cinematic sound from their previous releases. In 2006 they released a compilation called "Black Tar Prophecies, Vols. 1, 2 &3" on Important Records. The compilation is made up by two 12" the band released in 2006 as well as two previously unreleased songs. The first 12" was in collaboration with Red Sparowes. On this compilation the band moved one step further into psychedelic territory by loosening up their song structures and adding a hazy LSD atmosphere throughout the album.

In 2007 Grails released "Burning Off Impurities" on Temporary Residence Limited. This album showed the band delving deeply on Krautrock and Acid Folk as well as other notable influences like Erkin Koray. The acoustic guitar takes a more prominent role on this album m...
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GRAILS discography


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GRAILS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.35 | 21 ratings
The Burden Of Hope
2003
3.35 | 12 ratings
Redlight
2004
4.13 | 72 ratings
Burning Off Impurities
2007
3.76 | 42 ratings
Take Refuge In Clean Living
2008
3.06 | 30 ratings
Doomsdayer's Holiday
2008
3.82 | 151 ratings
Deep Politics
2011
3.71 | 21 ratings
Chalice Hymnal
2017

GRAILS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

GRAILS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.33 | 6 ratings
Acid Rain
2009

GRAILS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 20 ratings
Black Tar Prophecies Vol's 1, 2, & 3
2006
3.90 | 10 ratings
Black Tar Prophecies Vol's 4, 5, + 6
2013

GRAILS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.67 | 6 ratings
Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around The World
2005
4.80 | 5 ratings
Black Tar Prophecies Vol. II
2006
4.27 | 11 ratings
Black Tar Prophecies Vol 4
2010

GRAILS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Burning Off Impurities by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.13 | 72 ratings

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Burning Off Impurities
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by moshkito

5 stars Grails - Burning Off Impurities (2007

It's not always that you hear something, and when you are done with it, an hour later, all you can think of is ... the history of so many things in your mind that it might remind you off, and in the end, it makes for a small comparison that seems to extend over 50 years (for me) ... and stand out, for an incredible piece of music or two, and this band, easily brings up 3 of these for me.

There are a couple of bands, for me, that were quite experimental in their early days, one came from the drum circles in a commune (Amon Duul 2), and the other, has a more difficult connection, although I think that it is strictly based on visuals and film (Djam Karet), something that most rock music listeners tend to leave to the "lyrics" to tell them what the music is about ... and for me, it has always been the best when no one says anything, and your imagination has to wake up to what it is seeing.

The CD, Burning Off Impurities by GRAILS, is a far out example of what the creativity of music can do to your imagination ... when bits and pieces of this material in this album brings me to some of the free form moments in Amon Duul 2's YETI ... but even those, or that parallel, is probably STRICTLY in my mind, and I am not sure that anyone else would see that.

It is kinda wonderful to hear, right at the start, a piece of music where the guitar is not soloing where "it's supposed to" in a rock song, and many times it is simply adding a wonderful mood to the music, again, this was something I first found in Amon Duul 2, starting with YETI many years ago.

GRAILS is much more "modern" and the music, if you are to take each piece from the CD, quite a bit more different and explosive in its own way, specially as the CD goes towards the end, even after an awesome opening. It seems to have some Eastern surprises (maybe it's just the instruments and how they are used), but the continued ability to create pieces that are not defined within a known rock style ... is to me, very special indeed.

What is more amazing is the material in this CD, is from an American band, in an area not well known for anything that far out, or that experimental ... for them "experimental" here means a cacophony group that intentionally distorts everything within a classical music format ... and everyone seems to like it, even though I would suggest that a lot of that music is very invisible, like a lot of free form jazz that is endless and meaningless in experiential ways, at least for me. It feels like an exercise in nothing, for the sake of nothing ... and sometimes it's called "art for art's sake", isn't it?

In this CD, the longer pieces are the ones that really stand out, from the opening "Soft Temple", then "Silk Road" and further in "Origin-ing" and "Burning Off Impurities" ... and for my tastes, in terms of an experience in listening to this, "Burning Off Impurities" is about letting go the conventions that prevent the music from being free ... and it certainly seems far out and expressive in my imagination, to the point that seeing visuals in this is actually difficult, in that you gotta dig to find them, but they are there ... in a mix of cultures and music that is impressive, and very well done.

It is, weird to me, to see this considered "psychedelic", as if the music sounded like that under that condition, and we are imagining things about the music ... which of course is quite possible and plausible. However, it takes away from one's own individual ability to "see" and "dream" beyond what one might usually find, or locate any meaningful discussion and thoughts, that would help you define things for yourself ... I guess that Huxley was not exactly my best example of "psychedelic", other than the colors. When it came to music, literature and art itself, then ... we are immediately confronted with the reality ... here is another person ... and sometimes this unusual thought, makes us think that they are this and that ... and this is not the case for me. This band is probably more "spatial" than it is "space rock" and it is less "psychedelic" within the definitions that we are used to from 50 years ago ... which are so rare to find nowadays, but are gloriously heard in this CD ... and it does not have to be "psychedelic" at all ... just pure excellent material for your imagination to gnaw on ... it is that kind of music!

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars On Deep Politics, Grails give us a spacey, at points even trippy journey through the margins of post-rock territory. The crew certainly show an adept command of a wide range of musical styles, incorporating Middle Eastern musical motifs into their music in the opening Future Primitive, opening the title track with a little piano-based minimalism, and so on, and indeed at points I found myself concerned that their tendency to meander around trying a range of different styles out would get the better of them.

At the end, I found Deep Politics to be a reasonably satisfying album for background listening but didn't offer up much in the way of a cohesive artistic vision - it's sufficiently diverse that you could probably con someone into thinking it's a compilation of the work of multiple different post-rock bands rather than a single unit, and whilst that speaks well to Grails' musical versatiity it doesn't quite make me want to come back to the album for regular repeated listens.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars The very first time I heard this album, I remained disengaged. However, as a believer in second chances, I revisited the album a few weeks later and enjoyed my stay. With each hearing, my appreciation for the various textures and progressions of the compositions themselves deepened. The music is breathy and rarely choked by excess. The psychedelic veneer only covers the more symphonic and post-rock elements, with what I hear to be a nod to Mike Oldfield. All in all, I find it to be an admirable album, perfect for a rainy morning like this one.

"Future Primitive" The album starts promisingly, with a low, grungy backing and Middle Eastern influences. I adore the riff midway through- it's original and allows the light-headed lead instruments ample opportunity to complement the piece.

"All The Colors Of The Dark" Groovy, jazzy piano and an eventual choral Mellotron provide the essential psychedelic textures to make this eventually melodic track work. The track assumes a soothingly victorious essence.

"Corridors Of Power" Adopting various Asian visages, including Japanese flute and Indian rhythms, Grails does a pleasing job of fusing the sounds of different cultures into a quiet, meditative piece.

"Deep Politics" Gorgeous piano prances through a dark atmosphere, making a composition that is at once somnolent and exciting, as though knowing there are monsters in the closet and under the bed and sleeping anyway because one must be fresh for work the next day, yes? When the drums enter, the piece maintains an eerie, antiquated sense of beauty- dream time now.

"Daughters Of Bilitis" Referencing a French coming-of-age film, the fifth track involves brooding chords with graceful drizzles of strings and piano.

"Almost Grew My Hair" Galloping acoustic guitar and dark electric guitar march through this piece, with the former (a twelve-string) maintaining control of the spotlight. The descending bass riff is quite similar to the aforementioned riff in the first track. The last passage builds on growling and shrieking electric guitar.

"I Led Three Lives" For me, "I Led Three Lives" is the downer of the album. Moody atmospheric pads meander here and there, and though the piece climbs into heavy progressive rock territory midway through, by that point, my attention begins to wander- just yawn-inducing and tedious.

"Deep Snow" Redeeming the album after the penultimate disaster, the final piece offers reflective acoustic guitar that builds to a melodic and stunning climax. The second half is raucous and Mediterranean in character, and it contains a passage that is vaguely familiar to me. This is a satisfying conclusion to a remarkable musical expedition that may require patience.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars A rather strange album from a band who has a lot to say.

I am not that used to this kind of music. Music I associate with the likes of Blow Up Hollywood and the new generation of US prog rock bands. Bands whose philosophy is "less is more". Which is exactly what you get on this album. Less is more here. We are not talking cascades of keyboards, bass and guitars. Neither cascades with woodwinds and violins/cellos either. Instead, Grails gives us an album where each instrument and each melody line get the chance to breathe properly. So much than we can feel each heartbeat from the instruments used here. Less is more...... but the result is still a big, dense sound.

The tempo is rather slow and ambient. The songs, all instrumentals, are not immediate accessible. But they creeps up on you and stays there. For me, that is one of the hallmarks of a great album. An album that leaves a mark on the listener. An album not easily forgotten. Yes, I would wish there was some truly excellent songs here. But this is still a great album and one to cherish.

4 stars

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars 'Deep Politics' is the first and - so far - one of the few 2011 albums that gave me that glorious feeling that all is still rather well with the world and that good music will prevail for ever.

Admitted, I've been hooked by this band ever since I heard the dark, gothic and experimental post-rock soundscapes of 'Black Tar Prophecies'. The band hasn't changed their approach all that much over the years, but recent albums had shown a growing interest in composing memorable hooks and 'catchy' song-material, an effort that greatly pays off here on this epic cinematic album. The music can really stand on its own here, and there's only a couple of quieter tracks where some accompanying footage might improve the experience.

So what we get is the known 'soundtrack' style approach of the band, applying the "slow-is-beautiful" ethic when they build up the tension and set the scene for gloriously big, as well as desolate landscapes, for touching romantic scenes and looming drama. Really, I can't wait to see the movie when hearing this album. The spirit of Ennio Morricone is present in many of the compositions, as well as the gift of Pink Floyd to create that full yet open sound, where every instrument freely breathes and resonates.

'Deep Politics' is Grail's most diverse and successful album so far and a perfect introduction to the band. Fans of post-rock and space-rock shouldn't hesitate, but anyone is invited really, the fact that this is the 7th 4star review in a row sure indicates its broad potential.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Extremely Satisfying Head Music

DEEP POLITICS is the first album from Grails I have purchased, and it has turned out to be one of my most-spun records of the year. Unlike many albums that require a very specific mood to work, DEEP POLITICS combines enough hypnotic atmosphere to function as background music but also has enough activity and detail to be listened to with close attention. The overall sound is instrumental, dark, psychedelic, and employs occasional ethnic influences. There are ebbs and flows of emotion and intensity, but never jarringly so. The mood remains in a contemplative arena, despite the music actually moving from glimpses of Camel guitar slow jam to Native American styled flute work to gentle piano interludes.

In a genre where obvious rips from Pink Floyd or Gong intrude all too frequently, Grails manages to dig a little deeper and carve their own niche. The overall sound reminds me more of a modern Krautrock than Eloy or Nektar. None of the individual sounds will surprise you, but the collection both within and across songs makes for a very effective listening experience. Much of the record is quite mellow, though I never find my attention wandering. Most of the instrumental (piano and guitar usually taking the lead role) work is quite understated. Everything serves the overall mood, and that mood is a rich indigo evening with a slight drizzle. (The album cover is a little too bleak for the music, IMO).

Most of the psych-rock I've tried seems shallow or derivative. Grails avoids this and has made a great piece of mood music that continues to push my speakers while other favorites move into the background. Firmly recommend.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Maybe it's the abundance of cloudy and rainy weather that these guys have lived with in Portland, Oregon that has caused them to create such a bleak and atmospheric albim. Ambient and dark with mellotron, strings and sparse piano often helping to create that melancholic mood.This reminds me of the atmospheric side of Experimental / Post-Metal a lot if only there were more Metal outbreaks. So yeah these guys blur the lines between Psychedelic / Space Rock, Post-Rock and Experimental / Post-Metal. Cinematic is a word thrown around a lot with regards to this album and I did think of ULVER's "Perdition City" while listening to this work a few times.

"Future Primitive" opens sounding like a slow moving mechanical beast. It starts to pick up before 2 minutes then it turns heavier at 3 minutes. "All The Colors Of The Dark" has these dark piano lines with drums before guitar and atmosphere joins in before a minute. It settles right down then picks back up as contrasts continue. "Corridors Of Power" features percussion and bass in a dark atmosphere.

"Deep Poiltics" opens with piano and kicks in and picks up after 2 minutes as strings and drums are added to the piano. It turns chaotic after 4 1/2 minutes then settles back. "Daughters Of Bilitis" has an interesting soundscape with percussion, piano, guitar and other sparse sounds. "Almost Grew My Hair" is a terrible title but then i've had longish hair since I was 19 (haha).The sound builds with vocal melodies and strummed guitar.The vocals stop as drums and other sounds join in. Some heavy outbursts after 5 minutes. It's building again before 7 minutes.

"I Led Three Lives" is my favourite. It's dark and atmospheric. We get a beat after a minute. Intricate guitar before 2 1/2 minutes. It's building. "Deep Snow" has this laid back intricate guitar to start then it gets fuller 1 1/2 minutes in. It then settles back with atmosphere as the intricate guitar continues. A calm after 3 1/2 minutes then it kicks in reminding me of THE TEA PARTY. It settles again with intricate sounds and atmosphere.

A solid 4 star album that pushes most of the right buttons for me.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Grails are a group who have been referred to as Post-Rock but are listed here on PA under Psyche/Space. On this album, the only one of theirs I have heard, I can hear both styles along with a very soundtrack-like, cinematic atmosphere. I like the diversity of instruments and sounds on this mostly instrumental album. Synths are used almost exclusively for background atmosphere, never being a lead instrument. Lots of various guitar tones are used and sometimes there are wordless vocals that don't stand out at all.

"Future Primitive" has a Middle-Eastern vibe to it. This song sounds to me like a cross between Radiohead and The Tea Party. "Corridors Of Power" has some talking. I like the mix of a trip-hop beat and 'Andean' pipes. The title track is one of the better songs on the album. Features some good piano work. Just love the electric piano sound in "Daughters Of Bilitis" but otherwise it's not one of my faves. The title of "Almost Grew My Hair" is a reference to the David Crosby song "Almost Cut My Hair." This song has some wordless vocals. Some great guitar work throughout this track. "I Led Three Lives" builds up to a nice groove around halfway. Gets riffy for a bit and then slowly mellows out and gets more ambient sounding. "Deep Snow" again reminds me of The Tea Party with it's Middle-Eastern styled melody. Later gets more post-rock sounding.

There is nothing extremely original here but at the same time the music does not sound derivitive or cliche at all. The sound and production is terrific for a new release; not over compressed leaving out all the dynamics of the music. This is one of those albums where you end up liking it the more you hear it. I have no idea what their earlier albums sound like, but after hearing Deep Politics I'm interested. Great modern music. 4 stars.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Deep Politics' - Grails (8/10)

Is ambient music still considered as such, when it is backed up by strong and tightly woven songwriting? Meet the band Grails, a band that has been called everything from psychedelic to post-rock. Although certainly close to many other bands in terms of sound, Grails' 2011 bout into the music scene does set them apart as an intriguing act in atmospheric rock. Scooping up some acclaim across the board for the latest album 'Deep Politics', Grails create an instrumental journey that stays interesting and engaging throughout. In doing so, the band has created a likely candidate for the soundtrack of some non-existent film.

Each track here has a very spacey, atmospheric feeling to it. Whether it's the dense arrangements and orchestrations between string sections, guitars, and electronics, or the clever use of psychedelic effects, Grails sounds quite often like complex ambient music. When it comes to melody, there is substance here, but its usually not so straightforward as much music might tend to allow. Instead, 'Deep Politics' seems to be an album that aims to give the most relaxing experience it can, taking its time to get where its going. The fact that this is an instrumental album also allows it to work perfectly as background music, although the intent and engaged listener can choose to have just as pleasant an experience with it as he would otherwise.

Although things are very atmospheric, there is also a strong sense of songwriting. Each song maintains a level of good direction to it; no matter how spacey the ordeal gets, there is never a shortage of the feeling that the music is going somewhere. Of course, these songs (which have stylistic influences ranging from Indian raga music to chilled jazz) have a lacking in excitement that would commonly associate them with this sort of music, the instrumentation is played surprisingly well, with the eastern-tinged violin sections sticking out particularly well.

Grails opens up 2011 with a very strong note, and although I'm not the most experienced listener of ambient-leaning music, 'Deep Politics' does enough to both soothe me, and hold my attention.

 Deep Politics by GRAILS album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 151 ratings

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Deep Politics
Grails Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 7/10

"Deep Politics" is one of the very best Post-Rock albums of the year.

2011 is an interesting year for post-rock: it seems like the bands of this genre have decided to go a little crazy this year and put a huge amount of influences, to the point where you can barely tell id it's post-rock or not. OK, I haven't head the new Mogwai or the new Explosions In The Sky, but I did hear the new Long Distance Calling, which was influenced a lot by metal and some electronic. "Deep Politics" is completely different. In a good way.

I'm getting to the point where I consider this album more like Space rock; there are very few post-rock elements, which was something I got really surprised for. The music, yes, is a little spacey thanks to the pretty massive use of keyboards and mellotron. We got some very dark sounding strings and cellos here and there, some accompanied by the keyboards, some samples, some strange sounding flutes, some piano, some very tense electric guitar, that always keeps you gripped on the edge of your seat, thinking that it might explode into an intense and fierce part of the song , but it never does. Some influences of ethnic music, such as Indian or Arabic, as well as cinematic and Morricone like moods. Also, acoustic guitars can be present. So "Deep Politics" sounds a lot like a kaleidoscope of sounds, and all the tracks differ a lot from each other. "Deep Politics" is an instrumental album, but the music is so rich and beautiful that vocals would just ruin it.

Many of these songs are absolutely memorable: the beginner, "Future Primitive", is one of the most spacey ones, and most definitely one of the best of the album, thanks to the effective and evocative ambience that perfectly goes with the more melodic part of the song. A more tense and creepy song is the second track, "All The Colors Of The Dark", due to its pointy sounding piano. But the chorus is more lively and epic sounding, and it really changes the atmosphere from there on. Other great songs are "Almost Grew My Hair", "I Led Three Lives", and the final track "Deep Snow", all of them have beautiful and unique sounding moments. Of course there are some moments of this album that could have been easily fixable, like the title track or the eerie "Corridors Of Power".

I wasn't exactly in love with the album overall, but I really had a good time listening to it, and definitely It gets to be my number 1 post-rock album of the year.

Thanks to chamberry for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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