Grails – Burning Off Impurities

Grails
Burning Off Impurities

Burning Off Impurities is the Portland, Oregon quartet’s fourth full-length and first album with Temporary Residence. The group’s career is also littered with EP’s, split albums, compilations and rarities that, with each one, show the progression of the groups sound. With every release, the sound seems to grow darker and heavier. And Grails’ latest effort is no exception.

Following on the heels of the release of Black Tar Prophecies Vol’s 1, 2 & 3, this collection delves a little deeper into their metal-inspired sound. Their songs are barely part of reality and instead border on surreal while each song inspires it’s own imagery to be conjured up in your mind. I believe I experienced the opening track, “Soft Temple” in a live performance. It was a small venue and off the beaten path a bit. The small room was filled with people smoking and thus a haze filled the room and everything seemed to visually move a little slower. The Grails took the stage without a word and began to play. A bass line and a slight drum began to slowly fill the room. The whole room began to slowly sway with the groove as smoke wove around the room with every exhale. Layer upon layer of instrumentation crept in slowly. Electric guitar, banjo, piano….building and building as the tempo itself slowly gained speed with everyone in the room feeling the groove. The drums rolled and crashed until the song hit its musical peak and began to disintegrate into soft percussion, hints of piano and spacey guitar that slowly jammed their way out of the piece. It all comes back to me when I hear the music pulsing through my headphones. The Grails certainly know how to create an atmosphere.

The opening track, at almost seven minutes, sets a perfect stage for the rest of the album. Along with “Soft Temple”, “Dead Vine Blues” is another standout track featuring excellent acoustic guitar work backed by percussion. This track is anything but your lazy finger picking, this is total consuming intensity. If I had a dream of running from some scary, unknown shadow in the dark, I’m pretty sure that this song would be playing. In “Origin-ing” the song starts out with sounds that are reminiscent of the machinist shrieks that the alien robots from War of the Worlds made just before their reign of terror. If you are prone to nightmares, be careful of listening to this one at night. It does move into less scary territory as you proceed further and even blends in some harmonica.

The title track and closer provides the listener with a glimmer of light after having just gone through one of the darkest feeling albums of the Grails career. Even though it begins with a deep rumble, it slowly peals away to reveal moments of optimism in this dark, cruel world. With each song filled with a deep intensity, this track provides a lighter side with plenty of acoustic guitar that give a bit of a nod to the sound of Led Zeppelin. And if you listen closely, you can even hear some horns weaving in and out of the layers of guitar and percussion.

With each new effort the Grails sound feels more solid, versatile and intensified with each member further experimenting and adding to their list of contributing instruments. The band continue to impress with their growth as a band as well as their ability to construct instrumental masterpieces that are anything but boring.