Sunday: Grails, Ocean at the Middle East






Longtime friend John Brien, founder of Important Records up Newburyport way, sent us some music the other day that he wanted us to hear. We’re glad he did.


Portland, Oregon’s Grails deal in a heady stew of heavy psychosis. Moaning drones, doleful banjo plucks, billowing white noise, stabs of noirish spy-movie guitar, ephemeral effects crackling and tinkling, all of them build and build, layer upon vertigionous layer, swirling in little eddies then gusting hugely in sweeping, atmospheric mood pieces.


But they can still bring the heavy: check out “Belgian Wake-Up Drill,” the third track from their Important release Black Tar Prophecies 1,2, and 3, a lumbering, thundering beast echoing through the wordless night.


Sharing the stage with Grails on at the Middle East upstairs on Sunday night is another one-word band who get heavy all the time. Real heavy. But their sense of dynamics and tonal subtlety are just as refined as their very different label mates.


Doom metal dudes Ocean come by their name honestly. They’re from the other Portland — the first one, the one about two hours north of here. And anyone who’s ever seen cold the Atlantic crashing against Maine’s jagged granite shores during a perfect storm knows how raging, swelling churning, pummeling, bludgeoning, manhandling, lung-busting, the briny deep can be. At the same, however, the sea can just as suddenly turn placid again, with barley a ripple on its slate-gray surface.


The three long songs (20 or so minutes each) on Ocean’s Here Where Nothing Grows — the highest selling Important Records release ever, beating out even heavy-hitters like Keiji Haino, Lee Ranaldo, and Daniel Johnston — tend toward lumbering midtempo sludge, writhing like a leviathan, soul-shaking vocals burbling forth like diabolical Ahab screaming from his watery grave, then grow quiet for a moment or two, then swell again to sublime and frightening heights, like the white whale’s murderous fluke. Powerful stuff.


(Look for Ocean’s new record early in ’07)



DOWNLOAD: Grails, “Black Tar Prophecy” (full MP3)

DOWNLOAD: Grails, “Belgian Wake-Up Drill” (MP3 excerpt)

DOWNLOAD: Ocean, “Salt” (MP3 excerpt)

DOWNLOAD:  Ocean, “First Reign” (MP3 excerpt)

-- Mike Miliard

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