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Grain - "The Abyss" (CD)

Grain - "The Abyss" CD cover image

"The Abyss" track listing:

1. Direct Us To Texas
2. Bleed The Stone
3. The Trials
4. Keter/Malchut
5. The Real Shit
6. The Centerpiece
7. In The City
8. Calling In Favors
9. Heartless
10. A Message From The New Outlaws
11. Revolution Is Coming
12. Too Many

Reviewed by on November 20, 2006

"The ace card for the album has been saved for track nine's 'Heartless', clocking in at three and half minutes of the baddest metal I have heard this year."

One of today's most respected Texas area metal acts, Grain consists of David Jarvis on vocals, Nick Stolz on guitar, Rick Nagler on drums and Henry "Hank" Jarvis on bass. The quartet self-proclaim to be pioneers of scrap metal, a variation of Pantera's thrash-based power groove and other various sub-genres of heavy music, including yes... dare I say, Rap-metal. And this reviewer hates Rap-Metal about as much as one can hate any form of music without actually going out and maimiing the artists who create it. All this said, I will be the first to stand and defend Grain's new album entitled "The Abyss". It's one of the more truly metal sounding albums put out this year.

Bucking immediately out the gate like a steer on crack, the opening track, 'Direct Us To Texas,' is a definite head banger and for most of its length sounds like something an early 'hair metal' Pantera would have released, complete with the studder-stop double bass drumming action ala Vin 'The Brick Wall' Paul and harmonic-crying, monster-chunk riffing of late great Dimebag Darrell. Even vocalist Jarvis gets Anselmo's pissed off screams down to a tee at points, while still managing to sound unlike most of the other vocalists using the same technique in metal. 'Bleed The Stone' is much of the same but that's okay cause I totally dig a band that can at least remain consistent to their approach and not try and do something completely different just for the sake of it. These guys clearly enjoy being a Pantera-replicant, much like their peers Throwdown.

Track three, 'The Trials,' starts off with a man's voice saying, "Yeah, I had to knock some cob webs of them Ho's." It launches into the heaviest guitar sound yet and is matched in singing intensity throughout finally, with much more death metal-ish vocalization which is a perfect shift in direction. 'Keter/Malchut' is unbridled blast beast perfection and begins to define now what this band is really about: sonic annihilation at all costs, making bigger advances toward sounding extreme metal than ever. 'The Real Shit' is a return to the initial Rap-metal approach, however, and fails to keep the momentum going that the band had been building succesfully to this point. That is until we get to the final section of the song and then all hell breaks loose with one demonic-crusher of a moshing rhythm that thankfully continues for two minutes with Jarvis crying "They ain't ready for the real shit."

Track six 'The Centerpiece' actually has Jarvis breaking out his natural singing voice for an uncanny Layne Staley-esque chorus: 'Let this not be what we've come to see, Let me please return to what it used to be." 'In The City' opens with the heaviest groove up to this point and the drums sound like a death march going on in hell, despite Jarvis' voice sounding a bit too squeaky and crackly, almost as if he was going through puberty while recording his vocals. He opens up his throat, however, for the end croak and doesn't let you down. Nor does the band. They go back and forth from one breakneck change to the next, finally going out with a Vulgar Display Of Power that even Diamond would be proud of.

Track eight 'Calling In Favors' walks back on the fine line of sounding like a speed/death metal band with Eminem on the mic, which isn't half bad really. The mid-section enters into a killer pit-circler for sure, leading the song into a half-time foot stomper. The ace card for the album has been saved for track nine's 'Heartless', clocking in at three and half minutes of the baddest metal I have heard this year. Grain flexes its brutalness with the best in metal here. Lead vocalist Jarvis sounds as downright evil here as Randy Blythe, howling as harsh as you will hear, "From the underground to my ears, I don't fear death, I fear life and how it feels." It's a great song all around and one I will re-visit when needing to deal with my own angst on days that go purely wrong.

'A Message From The New Outlaws' does well to keep your sheer anger now fully generated pitched way ahead, getting political with the line: "Let's take this straight to the boss and try and turn some of the bullshit on pause." The song ends in a total rap, but it's almost like they're letting you in on a joke. That's really the beauty of this band and the album. They don't expect or care to be taken seriously. They are a heavy metal band. Who would anyway? Track eleven 'Revolution Is Coming' is the album's best all-around song from start to finish, sounding like something Lamb Of God would have done pre-Machine and that's a good thing. It pours in all the best extreme metal elements we all know and love so much and lets you drink it down with love. The final track 'Too Many' does more of the same and sounds like the band had one too many beers and bongloads before they sat down to record their tracks. It's got that 'We need to put twelve songs on this album even if we'd rather be at the bar partying'. And again, who could blame them? They are an ass kicking metal band from Texas.

Highs: 'Heartless' and 'Revolution Is Coming' are as good of thrash metal songs as you can get.

Lows: Some of the rebel rapping going on throughout wears thin at points despite an overall crushing vocal delivery.

Bottom line: One of heavy metal's finest efforts for 2006.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)