Boomkat Product Review:
Although we've known all about Grails for some time now thanks to a couple of fabulously realised post-whatever albums on Neurot, last year's epic 'Black Tar Prophecies' album really got our undivided attention. Of course we clearly weren't the only people listening in intently, the band were quickly snapped up by Temporary Residence who coaxed them away from Important records with a trail of sweets so I'm told and now they're back with this grand new statement - the excellent "Burning Off Impurities". The production values are higher, the songwriting is more epic and risky, and the instrumentation just sounds, well, almost regal. Apparently since recording 'Black Tar Prophecies' Grails have been delving much further into the worlds of psychedelic, ambient and world music, influences that have definitely rubbed off on these productions. The band's drummer Emil Amos even managed a stint battering skins for everyone's favourite outsider Jandek, and his attention to detail and keen ear for improvisation is evident - the drums really hold these tracks together, with Amos's thumping kick and rattling toms cutting loudly into the mix for maximum effectiveness. Take a track like 'Silk Rd.' for example; this is possibly the fastest, most upbeat track Grails (who are known for their almost doomy dirges) have ever produced; on first listen it can sound a little unusual, but give it time and the genius really seeps out of it - partly down to the tight, propelling percussion-work. Set against a horizon of delayed steel strung haziness, ethnic instruments and half-heard vocals, this is powerful stuff, at the same time a soundtrack to a midnight campfire ritual and a foot-stompin' call to arms for angry pitchfork-wielding villagers. The band quote Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Popul Vuh as huge influences, but although I can hear echoes of these guys, what Grails are doing is very much American and seems to be deeply rooted in folk music. Although their distorted guitars and rumbling basses might suggest links to the metal scene, their songwriting seems at all times to be coming out of that disused barn on mom and pops' ranch, plied with moonshine and home-made lemonade, and that's what gives them an edge over so many similar acts. This is rock-folk (not folk rock) and by injecting it with a keen knowledge of classic metal the band have procured for themselves a distinct sound, and it's a sound we like very much indeed. Light yourself a fire in an old gasoline can and enjoy. Huge recommendation.