Monday, 28 September 2009

Giant Squid - Metridium Fields. 86/100.

As previous reviews will indicate, Giant Squid aren’t the easiest band to pin down. Certainly not to one particular style that overrides all others. This is the main reason I have not reviewed their two successful full-lengths already because as accessible as they are in terms of instrumentation, they’re a reviewing nightmare for me since I’m not overly familiar with concept records, or bands who dabble in jazz. ‘Metridium Fields’, the break through record released through The End Records label, home to many experimental metal and rock acts that I myself listen to, doesn’t lean as heavily towards complex areas like jazz as the sophomore does, but this is a slight indication at what is to follow from the band in the future, or rather, the present. ‘The Ichthyologist’ touches upon subjects I’m not familiar with, making it all the more difficult to review, but as with ‘Metridium Fields’, I feel compelled to finally put down in words what this record, and this band, personally means to me. They’re unlike any other and I know that’s a total cliché - pointing out how unique a band is in comparison to others - but I wholeheartedly mean what I say without any use of hyperbolic statements.

The first true indication of this, though he does resemble two famous musicians whom you might have heard of before, is in Aaron Gregory’s vocal portrayal. His voice is one of the most engrossing voices I have heard. He has an unparalleled ability at drawing an audience in through his voice alone since it shines throughout the record. Some say he sounds like the mainstream maestro from System of a Down, Serj Tankian, a rock band whom introduced me to the mainstream scene myself. As I’m well aware and accustomed to the weird and wonderful ways of Serj, adapting to the quirky voice of Aaron was not difficult in the slightest. His voice, if anything, adds more flavour to the already cultured artistry of Giant Squid. Though he does not provide the only vocal efforts on this, or the sophomore records, his presence is the center piece on an otherwise mesmerising decorated mantle. I’ve never much considered the vocals the epitome of a band, or even a central point of the music, but Giant Squid provide a touch of class by exhibiting the excellence of the intelligible lyrical themes through a powerful voice which transmit’s the most infectious sounds you’re ever likely to hear. As well as resembling this powerhouse, Aaron has a tendency to sound akin to the more emotional voice of Scott Kelly, the vocalist behind the massive sounding Neurosis. Not a bad comparison at all.

Given the band like to incorporate jazzy instrumentation into their structures, which includes intoxicating bass lines that double-up well with the double bass of the drums and interesting inclusions of surrealist instruments such as the banjo, theremin and trumpet, it’s quite the feat that Aaron manages to establish himself as one of the most powerful hallucinogenic on the record given the vivid imagery provided by the colourful aforementioned elements. The song writing is particularly strong, as you can imagine, since all elements are packed into tight spaces emitting the most fragrant doses of melody and even some slightly sombre passages on songs like the mellow ‘Versus The Siren’, which also happens to be my favourite Giant Squid song from any of their efforts. I was particularly pleased with the song writing. I didn’t ever expect it live up to my expectations as I had previously come across several uneventful “atmospheric metal” bands just before I initially found this soulful band. The whole “atmospheric” sub-genre tends to be rather lacklustre for the most part, although this cannot be considered a solely atmospheric piece since it indulges the listener with slices of jazz and progressive music.

The atmospheric description tends to be lost amongst pretentious musicians who couldn’t generate at atmosphere even if their lives depended on it, so apprehension is usually my main feeling towards bands of this description. However, Giant Squid are a different entity altogether, as you may have already picked up on. They do not, as stated before, stick to one spectrum of metal, or indeed rock music. I imagine there are those who would even call this out and claim that it isn’t strictly a metal record, or even a metal band since they’ve become more mellow as time as gone on when they weren’t particularly fierce to begin with, as ‘Metridium Fields’ signifies. There are “harsh” moments, so to speak where guitar distortion does become a factor, but progressive metal rarely calls upon hefty distortion to depict it’s more downbeat qualities. Usually, progressive bands tend to write upbeat songs, with marred lyrics that drown the heavy heart in sorrow. Of course, there are aggressive progressive bands, but Giant Squid, even when applying distorted patterns to the colourful skylines, do not necessarily adhere to this process.

The vocals, even when they reach the formidable screamed endings, are always clean and Aaron has a tendency to double up with the female vocalist, Aurielle Gregory, who I believe is his wife (though don’t quote me on that). Aurielle has a much softer voice than Aaron and this fits comfortably in with the idea of a jazz base for the songs as she swiftly implements her sweetly harmonised voice on songs like the poetic ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’. The songs are littered with creative marks left by the musicians as the banjo, symbolic percussion sections and slow guitars drift in and out of consciousness, affecting the soundscapes in a vast array of ways. The epic 20 minute plus self-titled song is the best example of how Giant Squid fuse jazz subtly into their songs and is a fitting way to end proceedings. Though I have warmed more to the concept record that is the sophomore, I still enjoy this profusely. Some people are put off by the fact that bands release records independently, but I warn you, you would be making a huge mistake if you overlook any of the Giant Squid records because they’ve been independently released (though this one was eventually picked up by a label).

No comments:

Post a Comment