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Neo-classical metallic elegance - 85%

narfish, January 26th, 2008

From at least as far back as the early to mid-eighties, the California Bay Area has been an epicenter of forward-thinking metal. Early American thrash bands (Metallica, Exodus, Testament), some of the lords of stoner metal (Sleep and now High on Fire), a relocated Melvins, Neurosis, and locally famous weirdo acts like Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune all hail from San Francisco and its environs.

So maybe it's no surprise that a band as unconventional as Grayceon emerged from that same Bay Area metal scene. The band's instrumentation of finger-picked electric guitar, cello and drums is enough to raise an eyebrow, but what could have been a gimmick becomes instead a very unique, while still very metal, sound.

Jackie Perez-Gratz's cello glides beautifully through the more ornate, chamber ensemble passages (there are many); during the thrashier segments (there are also many), it saws percussively in the bottom range and takes the place of a bass. Perez-Gratz and guitarist Max Doyle mesh in perfect harmony on one chunky neo-classical riff after another, and Zack Farwell's drums slide in perfectly, creative but never wanky.

My one gripe is the vocals. This band could've been just fine without them. Compared to the grandeur of the band's music, the somewhat plain dual-octave vocal lines don't really stack up. Thankfully they don't pop up too often, so they don't distract from the majesty of this terrific record. Definitely one of the most underrated albums of 2007.