[Temporary Residence Ltd., 2017]
Intro: Kostas Barbas
Translation: Niki Nikolakaki
13 / 03 / 2017
Grails have been a special case of a band since their formation. They fell into the category of the flourishing -in the early 00s- scene of post-rock, but during their course they went beyond the genre. The intense psychedelic and space touches characterize their music while they did not hesitate to include in their sound 70s krautrcok and raga rock elements too.
The passage of time seems to favour them, but also to mature their artistic vision. Both of their best albums to date that can be regarded as stunning are Burning Off Impurities (2007) and Deep Politics (2011), and the latter has been their most mature work until today.
After six years of silence, this year they return with Chalice Hymnal, ending the anticipation of those who had been following them through the years. Expectations after such a long period of absence are certainly high.
More mature than ever
There are releases that seem to carry much weight and take a position as nodal moments in a band’s discography. Chalice Hymnal seems to carry that weight from the very first hearing. Judging from the structure and artistic choices, one might think that Grails this time went in the studio to create their magnum opus. The most positive fact is that the result does not show any anxiety from their part to succeed this.
One of the main features of the album is diversity. Two tracks (Deeper Politics and Deep Snow II) are continuations of Deep Politics, while the style of the rest presents quite a few variations. However, the album flow resembles ideal even when the almost ambient Empty Chamber gives its place to the heavy and psychedelic New Prague, while definitely it is a pleasant surprise their tribute to the relatively unknown 70s Swedish band Kebnekaise. The tracks, except for the stunning chamber post-rock After The Funeral, are relatively short in duration and most importantly, they have something to say. Within the 60 minutes of the album there is no second to go to waste. Everything is designed to create mature and complete compositions.
The band, in turn, seems individually ready to support their vision. Their playing is meaningful and self-confident but without, according to post-rock standards, bringing out the particularities of each member, although after so many years some Grails trademarks exist. The orchestration is the richest in their history so far, without ever losing control. The traditional rock instruments are combined excellently with the electronic ones but also with the strings, with the help of the clear sound output. The post-rock and psychedelia, embrace the ambient and progressive rock, with the dose rates being perfectly matching.
Grails prove with Chalice Hymnal that originality is not necessarily the desired result in music. By adding some new elements in relation to the style of their previous album and by using their past as a compass, they managed to give us the most mature album of their career so far, based on composition and orchestration and present an album that will probably earn the title of Black Album in their discography.
8.5 / 10
There have been quite a few years since Grails released Deep Politics, a registered trademark of post-rock, and they are rightly considered as top representatives of the genre. Six years later, Chalice Hymnal finds them in a continuous process of creativity which -at least in the case of the new release- will resemble to an endoscopic search together with quite a few “explosions”. From the oriental aromas of Adam’s Peak and the minimalistic 10-minute Funeral Death to the noisy “sludge” New Prague and Kebnekaise, Grails reveal a latent pluralism which is admittedly difficult to fit the post-rock label. Fans of the genre, as well as followers of the group, will surely be satisfied while friends of the experimental rock scene will find several entries in this album (e.g. Empty Chamber) to satisfy their taste.
7.5 / 10