I never know what to expect from Vendlus Records. From the industrial black metal of V:28, the completely unclassifiable musings of Especially Likely Sloth, the folk art of The Mist and Morning Dew, the black metal excellence of Wolves In The Throne Room or even Audiopain re-issues, the label defies pigeonholing. However, with Grayceon the label has hit on a more classifiable but still brilliant record that should see the label finally grace my year end list.

This magnificent, largely instrumental three piece is driven by the cellos and occasional voice of Jackie Perez Gratz who currently serves in Giant Squid and Amber Asylum as well as appearing on records by Tribes of Neurot, Ludicra, Today Is The Day, Asunder, Jarboe and Hammers of Misfortune. That litany there, might give you an idea as to the band’s sound; Proggy, cello backed mix of doom, drone, post rock, thrash that brought to my mind Apocalyptica clashing with Neurosis. While Gratz delivers some supine vocals in the way of delicate singing, she is occasionally backed by guitarist Max Doyle (Walken), but the vocals only serve to add ethereal atmosphere to the already lucid music.

With the exception of the 3-minute rollicking burst of “Song For You”, the 4 tracks are sprawling, majestic and evocative anthems of ebbing and flowing artistry. Not simply 3 chord drone backed by a cello, the songs shift and shimmer in mood and an almost lullaby inflection with Gratz’s cello and Doyle’s guitars which shift from subtle, cello complementing acoustics to vigorous Prog rock riffage. The first song, “Sounds Like Thunder” shows these shifts perfectly as the cello and acoustics build into stern, urgent lumber, then collapsing breathlessly in a delicate climax. The 13 minute “Into the Deep”, (arguably one of my favorite songs of this young year), is a simply gorgeous exposition of delicate strumming and hypnotic interplay between cello and guitar as well as Gratz and Doyle’s voices. The track even crescendos into a pure instrumental thrash number before Gratz takes the song beautifully into a cello filled, enveloping softness. The first few lullaby-ish moments of 20 minute closer, “Ride” (arguably one of my other favorite songs of the year) are simply exhaustingly beautiful and when it enters a urgent, yet still mesmerizing gait about 6 minutes in, its still is just breathtaking, all the way to the dual vocals of the songs last few surprisingly playful minutes.

I’m not entirely sure if I can convey how truly beautiful parts of this album are, while still retaining a ‘metalness’ that fans of some of the bands above can still appreciate. The rare but superbly placed and delivered vocals, make this more than the instrumental album that it really is at heart and garnish the already brilliantly evocative album with tangible human emotion. Grayceon is absolutely fucking fantastic and early contender for my album of the year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
February 13th, 2007


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