Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grailknights - Calling the Choir

A tale of two songs

One look at Grailknights and it's incredibly obvious why I wanted them to become my favorite band.  Look at them!  That's so unbelievably dorky and silly that there's no fucking way I could ever not love them.  Aaaaand that's why their music is so disappointing.  In a way, they live up to their image of silly superheroes perfectly, because they're nothing but cornball cheese from the word "go", but they've always had a huge problem with making more than a handful of songs per album memorable in any way, and that issue has carried over to their new album, Calling the Choir.  I can wrap it up right now if I wanted to by simply saying that the title track and "Morning Dew" are the only songs worth really listening to.  There, you're done, nothing more needs to be said.

But there is more here, and unfortunately the biggest issue is, oddly enough, what isn't on this album.  That, obviously, is Mac Death, the bassist who used to carry the songs with a superb deep growl that had no right being as good as it was.  He kept the songs fresh with pummeling melodeath parts and a voice on par with Johan Hegg or Niilo Sevanen.  He was a guy whose talent clearly far outweighed the rest of the band, and so with his departure the band is left reeling with a huge component of their sound missing.  There are harsh vocals thrown in here and there, but they're nowhere near as memorable or massive as they once were, with Sir Optimus Prime (I'll never get tired of typing that) taking over all vocal duties since the split.  His clean voice is deep and powerful and leads to some pretty great choir sections, but unfortunately that's the sole redeeming factor on this album.  Basically the entire band other than him was replaced in 2011, which means almost all of the personnel from the frankly way-better-than-it-should-be Alliance is no longer present, and it shows.  A lot of character has been lost, and now what we're left with is a very average folky power/melodeath band with a silly gimmick.

When "Calling the Choir" opened up the album, I caught myself rocking out with a really stupid smile on my face.  "Oh yeah", I said to myself, "it seems like they haven't missed a step in the six years since the last album, this is just as fun and goofy as it should be".  With pounding double bass and soaring melodies, plus one of the catchiest choruses they've ever laid to tape, I had my sights set on a great, fun power metal album loaded with beer swigging, fist pumping anthems.  The next track, "Now or Nevermore" felt like a really strange one to follow that huge anthem up with, riding on a really boring galloping riff and a passionless chorus that couldn't elicit any emotion from me if I was on shrooms and my period.  It went in one ear and out the other, with nothing of consequence passing through the speakers for the entire five and a half minute runtime.  Thankfully, "Morning Dew" picked things up again, being a hilariously jaunty tune with a phenomenal folky pre-chorus that plastered that idiotic grin right back on my face.  It's a live staple of Wacken-metal if I've ever heard one, and I love every second of it.  This is the kind of thing the band is great at, and they really need to focus on songs like this.  It's full of terrible cliches that most bands should really try to avoid, with a standard progression and stereotypical Finntroll style folk sections, but it works marvelously with the silly cliche the band shamelessly tries to be.

And then the rest of the album happens, and it's quickly revealed that "Now or Nevermore" was really the only other idea they had, because I swear that track might as well repeat for the last seven tracks (apart from the god awful ballad, "Anna Lee").  It's a bunch of identically structured, lame-ass half-songs that just pass by with utterly zero consequence.  Bland power metal with semi interesting vocals wrapped around a dumb gimmick, with the even the occasional heavier melodeath part being passionless and boring on the few occasions it actually rears its head (like on "End of the World"), as it's been all but completely excised.  It seems like Alliance was a total fluke, and even then that album is merely good.  They've fully embraced the fact that they're just a silly comedy band at this point, which is a shame because they had flashes of actual songwriting brilliance in the past, and even a few flourishes here on the two songs I singled out.  Every song sounds the same, they're all of a comparable length, just nothing stands out and it isn't worth listening to.  It's just slightly above mid-paced power metal and essentially hits one note the entire time, that's all.

And the cover of "Holding Out for a Hero" is pointless and inconsequential.  I've always been of the mindset that metal bands covering pop songs is a useless novelty that works out roughly 1% of the time, and this doesn't change my mind.

RATING - 49%

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