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Grails/Pharoah Overlord - Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5 Split Review

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Grails/Pharoah Overlord - Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5

Grails/Pharoah Overlord - Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5

Kemado Records
Grails is an instrumental band from Portland, Oregon. The loose connection of musicians probably could not have come from anywhere else but Portland, with its rich musical scene and penchant for embracing the weird and wonderful. Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5 is a split with Finland’s monotonic-riff maniacs, Pharaoh Overlord. Grails occupies the first “side” with four tracks, while Pharaoh Overlord does the second “side” with a couple of their stuck-in-a-groove smokers.

Grails has nothing to do with metal of any kind, unless the occasional use of distorted guitar opens the doors to some obscure micro-niche in the metal monastery. Grail’s four tracks are as close to new age ear heroin as one will find this side of Om. Coincidentally, Emil Amos is Grail’s erstwhile drummer. He’s also Om’s drummer. Emil has a history of non-violence in his musical pedigree. With Om, Grails, Holy Sons and others, the music is as spiritual as a Buddhist chant, a mullah’s call to prayer or a journey on acid at friend’s apartment.

None of Grails' contributions on Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5 overstay their welcome. They induce their trances with creamy reverb, languid bass and atmospherics all under a paltry four and half minutes. Grails makes dreamy adventures in stereo, worthy of an after dusk cocktail with close friends. If music heightens the memory of the moments during which it was heard, Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5 blurs through 20 minutes and then vanishes into the same thin air shared by the memory of last week’s joint passed around outside the Agalloch concert.

Black Tar Prophecies Volume 5 hits its highlight with “Junkie Blues.” which, when applied thoroughly and allowed to sink in, does have a sort of bluesy overtone to its avant-garde deconstruction of whatever the hell this genre of metal is supposed to be. If choosing not to don the leathers, break out the smoke pots and slash away at flying Vees is a metal attitude of being anti-metal, then Grails has it down. Actually, it is four tracks made up by excellent musicians who swap their instruments with each other, jam out an idea or three and then commit the results to hard drive. The fact that it’s enjoyable to zone out to makes it quite worthwhile.

On the other side, Pharaoh Overlord spends its twenty minutes with two, count ‘em, two tracks. “Suntio,” which rolls on and on for 11:30 and has the feel of a Creedence Clearwater backing track without the John Fogerty solo spliced with the loopy splash and two-string picking of free jazz. The bass guitar gets lost in the parking lot throughout but always seems to find its way back.

“Plamu” is 12:55 of slow build and burn on the pure piracy of the string-bending riff from Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” It’s so shameless that it’s very difficult to space out on the overall odyssey of ambiance that Pharaoh Overload sparks up and then holds on to as if chords are made of gold. Play this track low and hear the wail of hippies from long ago.

(released October 30, 2012 on Kemado Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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