I met Grails in Fishtown, before or after a show upstairs at the old Circle of Hope on Frankford, I don’t quite remember. The show itself was phenomenal. They were out in support of 2007’s Black Tar Prophecies Vol 1-3, a collection I really enjoyed and a sound NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich describes as “doomy Americana.”
He’s not wrong. After I heard, Earth’s great 2005 album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, I was intoxicated by this sound. For the uninitiated, imagine an instrumental soundtrack to True Detective Season 1. For me, it was a counterpoint to what had started to frustrate me about freak folk popular at the time.
The guys themselves were really great. I planned to interview them, but Fishtown Tavern was way too loud, so we ended up talking about music and shouting at each other like the regulars. I’d later catch them when they came through on subsequent tours and was surprised to see Emil Amos’ holding down the drums for the mighty Om.
Chalice Hymnal, their first record since 2011, is out in a few weeks. Checking out the new tunes on Temporary Residence’s Soundcloud, it’s a departure from that doomy Americana sound. The title track has elements of dub that were completely unexpected.
“Deep Snow II” is more of the foreboding pastoral I fell in love with when I first heard the band. It’s less witchy and more space rock than the stuff they were doing 10 years ago, but it’s familiar in its tone and mood.
If there’s something I especially love about 2017 musically, it’s that so many of the bands I loved as a music critic are getting back together and making fantastic music. Grails are no exception.