Review Summary: Pushing down the boundaries of progressive metal, Giant Squid avoids the over reliance of technical wanking that other genre favorites tend to favor, and instead op for a more atmospheric style.
While listening to Giant Squid
, I can’t help but wonder; what attracts me to their music? Is it the jazz infused metal, that bands like maudlin of the Well and Kayo Dot has taught me to embrace? Perhaps it’s Jackie Perez Gratz’s beautiful, soaring voice that comes in at the most opportune times? Or maybe the sludgy sections that make my ears feel like they are wading through . . . well . . . sludge? Regardless of the exact reason, Giant Squid
uses all of them to create their own unique take on progressive music. The proverbial melting pot of several genres, The Ichthyologist
is a wall of sound that needs time to be climbed.
As mentioned above, there are many jazz influenced moments on this album. Flutes, cellos, oboes, and trumpets make an appearance in almost every song (which really sets them apart from the standard post metal band). The first two minutes of the album shows you what Giant Squid wanted to accomplish on this record; an eerie guitar riff accompanies a brilliant drum pattern and several woodwind/string instruments. The point is using these “different” instruments really brings out a whole different atmospheric level to the music. I know Giant Squid aren’t the only ones to play jazz influenced post metal, but I’d be willing to argue that they play it better than anyone else.
Another thing that really sets The Ichthyologist
is the addition of Jackie Perez Gratz in the vocal department. Where the female vocalist on Metridium Fields
was good, Gratz is so much of an improvement. Her voice appears effortlessly amidst the disorder and shines through like a siren through a heavy sea storm. Sometimes you can find her harmonizing with main vocalist Aaron Gregory (Sutterville
), to produce a truly awe inspiring effect. She also assists in the instrument department with the cello, which is certainly one of the shining points of the album.
The ambient, sludgy sections of the album are by far my favorites. They combine the unusual instruments with mesmerizing vocals and heavy layered guitars to create a sound that the listener has just plain never heard. Blue Linckia
is a great example of how Giant Squid has grown as a band since Meridian Fields (despite the departure of two of its members). The song starts off slow and atmospheric and about a minute in, the song twists into a dense layered guitar riff with Aaron Gregory’s odd vocals shouting above all the chaos ensuing behind him. The song lets the listener breathe at about 3 minutes in before diving off into a series of riffs and solos. Although the heavy metal sections of the album are not as bountiful, they are by far better placed and in general better done.
Although, there are reasons I have this album rated a 4. Clocking in at about roughly an hour, The Ichthyologist is truly a “wall of sound.” An inexperienced listener will have a troubling time trying to figure out everything that’s going on during the thick parts, and even the most veteran of post metal listeners will have to spin this several times to get a good feel of what is streaming through their head. I tend to find the slower songs (Sutterville
, Mormon Island
, and Emerald Bay
) to get a bit tedious over repeated listens. There could also be more harsh vocals, seeing how great they sound when they’re used.
has built a wall of music that is just asking to be climbed. Granted the climb will take plenty of effort; this reviewer guarantees you won’t be disappointed when you get to the top. For when you do, you’ll realize that you just listened to the epitome of progressive music. An excellent album by a band with huge potential, The Ichthyologist
does things differently than its competitors without even once coming off as pretentious or as if it’s “trying too hard.”
Throwing A Donner Party At Sea