Grayceon - This Grand Show
Vendlus
Avantgarde Progressive Rock
5 songs (56'37")
Release year: 2008
www.grayceon.com, Vendlus
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

I am probably the happiest that Northern California avantgarde trio Grayceon did not turn out to be a one-trick pony. Their eponymous debut was a progressive rock revelation of last year, and the follow-up This Grand Show lives up to my sizeable expectations. Hey, this is how it should be done, all you aspiring label managers, take a page from Vendlus. You spot and subsequently sign a talented act, send out promos the first time around and impress people, so they will be hunting high and low for the next record to come shelling out their own hard-earned coins. In the case of Grayceon the expenditure was entirely worthy.

Grayceon’s line-up remained intact, Max Doyle and Jackie Perez Gratz (look up every worthy act in San Francisco area to have her making appearances) provide the vocal, but mainly string interplay between the two of them on guitars and electric cello, respectively. Their decisive bond and rapport rest atop the ever-shifting, rocking and rolling, yet prodding constantly forward percussion by Zack Farwell.

The line-up is one thing, but apparently This Grand Show was composed in a quite different state of mind than the debut album. On the whole, the mood on this record is entirely more somber, even the beloved Gypsy chardash on Still the Desert does not feel as raucous. The intro It Begins, and So It Ends lays out This Grand Show disposition, but the funeral march moments of Still the Desert are rather unexpected. Sleep takes things further on the downward spiral. At some point, the post-rock texture takes over, notes begin falling sparingly, melodic pressure grows until detuned electronic bottom is hit in a quiet slumber. The range of emotions, including disturbing nightmares, can get pretty overwhelming at this point, Jackie’s cello and voice are needed to the rescue, only to wake up the listener to a funeral chord reality. This is deep stuff.

The Doyle/Perez Gratz team still likes to introduce a riff, hereby often of doomy variety, and then play the hell out of it, speeding up or decelerating, constantly adding and rearranging. Most of the time the duet is in full force, but cello is allowed to take a lead role as in the beginning of monstrous Sleep. Vocals are still used sparingly, but for all those who complained that the voices were an afterthought on Grayceon, the duo improved. Jackie pushes herself a lot more, while Max exhibits a very appropriate touch of anguish.

The strange combination of gloomy and boisterous, the record pushes on with this down-in-the-dumps determination to the very end of Love Is (a Dream) and This Grand Show Is Eternal. Even when the rhythm is dance-like and headbobbing is in order, the sense of fleeting grief is inescapable. If Grayceon, the album, was a brighter and immediately endearing affair, the effort needs to be made to look through the overcast clouds on This Grand Show, to understand that life cycle is, indeed, eternal, and life will go on regardless whether we, personally, or mankind, as a whole, will remain present to witness it.

Killing Songs :
Still the Desert, Sleep
Alex quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Grayceon that we have reviewed:
Grayceon - Grayceon reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
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