Grails - Chalice Hymnal album review

Post-rock foursome continue their journey into soundscapes.

Grails - Chalice Hymnal album artwork

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This Portland, Oregon quartet incorporate elements of post-rock, prog, dub and psychedelia and found most acclaim with their last release, when 2011’s Deep Politics saw them mould a much more expansive, widescreen sound full of film score atmospherics and string-laden sumptuousness, as well as unnerving sound effects.

Six years on, they’ve finally got round to capitalising on that breakthrough. The exotica is toned down a few notches, but at its best it’s similarly evocative and at times equally intoxicating. It delves back into the Slint-y post-rock pastures of their early work at times, but the same sweeping sonic vistas are sprawled across their sound regularly. A shimmeringly aquatic ambience characterises Rebecca, then the haunting fretless bass that accompanies washing waves on a beach on The Moth & The Flame offers a desolate yet enticing vision. Its proggier moments come with Pelham’s urgent yet arhythmical synth rock thunder and After The Funeral’s echoes of squonky sax and disjointed percussion. But even then, they’re dressed in the kind of mournful, foreboding strings that give you the strong feeling that something decidedly spiritual is afoot.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock