Vexing delivers one of those fine records that not enough people will notice because it’s combining two genres that normally do not share many features – Avantgarde Death and luscious Post-Rock. Does the band succeed in doing so? Could you be reading these lines if they didn’t?
Usually Progressive or Avantgarde Death Metal seeks to incorporate a lot of technical elements displaying the skills of those involved. Not saying that Grand Reproach does not feature three talent-less musicians, definitely no, but their aim is not to show off their skills but to write some good songs which combine elements from various genres.
Opening track ”The Mold”, for example, starts with a mushy noise-cascade-intro which one might also expect from bands like Full of Hell or Primitive Man and when the galloping drums blast onto the scene there is surely that punk’ish sense of attitude that several modern Death Metal values a lot. The background of the first real break after roughly 100 seconds indicates another level; the atmospheric pause seems to include a kind of open synth-element one would at first not expect. The growling, guttural vocals roll over our heads and into our ear-channels and the whole thing twists and scatters along the Death Metal realms with some avantgarde features found in the little spikes above the riffs – very interesting.
”Vanishing Light” then starts with a drum part both programmed and live so that we have two different levels onto which the riffs can then hook themselves. But these 7:34 minutes of the second track already show why Grand Reproach is such an interesting listen – the tracks resets itself independently and slowly moves upwards through a whirl of Post-Rock-like crescendos. This first clearer instance of Post-Rock and Post-Metal should be noticed because it will become more and more important throughout the whole record simultaneously pushing the Death Metal element into the background. When the riffs then open a little bit after roughly six minutes the emphasis on atmosphere becomes more and more apparent as the crescendos re-appear and fill a blank one did not know was there in the first place.
The value of a good laid-out tracklist can also be seen in the ascent from Death Metal valleys onto Post-Rock peaks in the transition between the fourth track ”Shallow Breath” and the fifth one </i>”Howling”</i>: The former stills retain a lot of the gnarling bite of Death Metal while the latter is a very Ambient, very calm exercise in instrumental moodiness and cold-glitter spheres as if ascending a snow-capped mountain. This track might also be part of a soundtrack to a (yet) unfilmed Sci-Fi-movie, it’s easy to imagine a shot of a big space ship flowing by or the landscape of an asteroid.
”Howling” also serves as the introduction to the second part of the record with Post-Metal being the dominant element, as ”Blunderbuss” already shows. This could be a good opener for Russian Circles or Caspian outgunning both when it comes to ferocity and core strength. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that there are less Death Metal influences in the second half of the record, and especially the last two tracks, the pretty ominous ”Small Black Flame” and very flexing ”Red Skies” show that even though they’re not afraid of throwing in a hard, galloping drum part as well. But ”Small Black Flame” is a bit like the sunrise on the aforementioned mountain top when the sun slowly rises after the last hard pulls you had to make to reach it. It comes as no surprise that these two tracks make up more than one third of the whole record and both leave a lasting impression on the ears of the audience.
With every listen it becomes obvious that this band is only just starting as some of the elements could flow into each other a bit more but if this is the floor of their first full-length then one can be excited when they reach for their mountain….uhm ceiling! Definitely something for fans of both genres, no matter how far apart they are.