We often rail against gimmicks here on Heavy Blog. That’s no coincidence; in its endless search for boundaries to push, metal will often grab whatever is closest to hand. However, it rarely takes the time to integrate whatever that crutch is into its composition and thus you get a gimmick, a once off or shallow use of something which could be cool and interested. Grayceon are a great example of how to avoid that. They splice their brand of stoner/doom metal with cello, baking it right into the composition. What could have easily been just another stoner metal band with a few string touches here and there turns into an album which utilizes its non-standard instruments in a varied and impressive way, adding it where necessary to amplify the core music and its impact.
The first type of cello on this album finds the instrument in a backing capacity, fleshing out riffs as it plays besides them. This can be heard on opener “Silver Moon”. As the guitars go through their Elder-esque iterations on the main theme, the cello picks up the backline and fleshes them out. This makes the overall result something more thick and filled with presence than a lot of bands who try to make up the spaces via feedback and distortion. Listen how, in the middle of the track, the cello keeps up with the guitars and, at time, with the drums and works in interesting ways to add a second (or third) layer to the growth of the track.
In other places, the cello takes a much more prominent and interesting role. “Slow Burn” is perhaps the best example of this. It opens with a furious guitar riff that is completely contrary to the name of the track. Soon, the cello erupts with its own voice, this time playing a role slightly different than the guitars. They play together but here, the cello seems to lead the way rather than play second fiddle (pun very much intended) to the guitars. This is also true when the track slows down into a more thunderous middle section, the cello drawing your attention as the guitars crash around you. In other places, like on the tear-jerking ballad “Pink Rose”, the cello plays a more traditional role in its prominence, harping (pun very much intended) on your heartstrings (OK, I’ll stop now) in its famous, melancholic timbre.
There are more layers to this album than just the cello though, a hallmark of albums that are just good instead of relying on a gimmick. The vocals, whether grand and moving like on the opening parts of the album, backed by abrasive screams on “Let It Go” or husky and filled with emotions on the aforementioned ballad, they just work. They have a strength of delivery that’s a staple of great stoner and doom metal. The guitars are also freakishly good, walking the gamut between thicker, more feedback heavy overtones to an almost thrash-like blazing intensity. The end result is an album which is very much an effort by the veteran band Grayceon are, as they gracefully exercise their unique sound and the tropes of the genre to immediate and heartfelt success. If you’re looking for a well executed stoner album with its own special, and fully fleshed out, twist, look no further than IV.
IV sees release on May 18th via Translation Loos Records. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to pre-order it.