Review Summary: Time to recalibrate.
In the past couple of years, Mike Vennart kept himself busy by touring with Biffy Clyro and Empire State Bastard, a new project with Simon Neil and Dave Lombardo. A new solo album wasn’t really expected to follow that soon. Nevertheless, he announced it out of the blue, choosing the independent route. That meant no heavy promotional activities or detailing much about it until the week of release. 2020’s In the Dead, Dead Wood
was quite an achievement, pushing into darker, more personal territory. The man decided this was worth further exploring, so Forgiveness & The Grain
takes a few more steps down the same path. There is controlled chaos and a hazy atmosphere about it that draws you in right away. Music-wise, we receive bits of everything he has composed so far, going from softer post-rock to explosive pieces.
Opener, “Chapter X: Whereupon I Immediately Did Nothing” starts with Gambler’s piano overture that grows into a melancholic ditty with traces of Oceansize. It would transpose really well on a Dear Hunter album. “3 Syllables” follows, its sturdy bass line acting as the back bone, while Vennart’s powerful vocals battle for the forefront. The fuzz-drenched low end wins towards the end, offering a round of hard hitting riffs. Moreover, “Luminous Target” takes it up a notch through noisy production choices and some screaming. The guitars are given more room to audibly expand, whereas the pounding drums really drive the song. There is this slightly uncanny, volatile feeling all the tracks transmit, it's cool. During the LP’s middle stretch, a couple of atmospheric numbers change the mood considerably. “R U The Future??” brings lush vocals over discreet piano chords, as well as a beautiful, smooth mix of reverb-laden guitars and synths. “Fractal” benefits from a minimalistic approach on the first half, only to suddenly transition to a harsh, distorted wall of sound. Soon after, punishing riffs a la Boris are unveiled to great effect. This is one of the most striking cuts on Forgiveness & The Grain
and perhaps from Mike’s catalog yet.
The final two tracks on the album are moody epics for which everything we’ve heard so far was thrown into a sonic blender and directed at us. “The Japanese No” is a slow burner with lovely croons. A lo-fi ambiance is created by the multiple effects on the guitars, building a tension that is sustained for minutes on end. Then, “Seventy Six” takes the opposite route, kicking in with sharp, distorted progressions and shouts. Again the instrumental threatens to bury Mike’s voice and it gradually does in a cool, cinematic fashion. The way Vennart toys with less conventional approaches to the songs’ structures maintains an element of surprise. Also, for the most part, he avoids classic distorted guitar chords, enhancing instead the heaviness of the bass and drums in order to fill the spaces where usually those would soar up front. This provides the record a slightly different and rather fresh sound. In other words, the man can do no wrong and Forgiveness & The Grain
is another excellent addition to his solo career.