Grant the Sun – Voyage

*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #36 of the SBR Album of the Week.


Norwegian trio, Grant the Sun, began as an instrumental rock band with lo-fi aesthetics and hi-fi dynamics, but their true evolution started with the release of 2019’s Sylvain EP. Featuring Meshuggah’s Fredrik Thordendal as guest bassist, that record filled a gap in their sound and gave them the impetus to approach their next recording with the basslines as a primary focus of the songwriting. Now primed with the second album of their career and the first to feature vocals, the band are ready to shift their sound even further towards the year zero epiphany of 2019. Voyage is a noise rock take on progressive metal with chameleon tendencies.

You might roll your eyes when you hear the first notes of Voyage. It’s true that Grant the Sun are yet another in a long line of bands that aim to merge the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine with the muscular riffing of contemporary metal. The likes of Deftones, Constellatia, Boris, Ithaca and Pupil Slicer have achieved some success in this field, but the maligned sub-genre of blackgaze has proved to be more divisive. To their credit, Grant the Sun have no affinity with the world-famous black metal synonymous with their country, which means they can approach their experiment with a fresh pair of eyes and open-minded ears.

The colourful textures and loud distortion of ‘Blue Desert’ recall the noise rock melodies of Hum, yet Markus Lillehaug Johnsen sounds like he isolated himself at the bottom of a well to record his voice. That’s because the band aim to capture the musical equivalent of an underwater voyage as their guiding concept on this LP. Agitated pitch bends and heavy amp gain settings wrestle with radiant splashes of melody. Sometimes, you think they’ll blow of course towards a post-metal frenzy of aggression, but they stay afloat in the seas of alternative rock. Follow-up, ‘Machina’, is much spikier and more mired in sludgy overtones, almost like a lo-fi attempt at replicating the dynamism of heavy metal. There’s a fine line between isolation and blissful solitude, and Grant the Sun find it here with palm-muted guitar patterns and vibrant chord phrasings.

The Meshuggah influence is only noticeable in the subtle mathematical drum patterns of ‘Hits Like a Wave’ and in the closing song that bears the band’s name. Regular snare beats in common time regress into something much more complex without you noticing. The fuzzy guitar chugs vibrate like the warm pollution of the urban landscape, where you can find comfort and danger on the same late evening as you overlook the neon metropole from the hills. Guitarist, Martin Rygge, provides the hysterical screams at a considerable distance from the microphone to add an extra layer of agoraphobia to ‘Death Is Real’. Maybe alternative rock has a future on the evidence of ‘Mariana’, where a sentimental sadness pervades through the shoegaze-metal hybrid of styles. There’s an emasculated sorrow to this song, yet it ends in the virtuoso experiment of a jazz fusion solo. Grant the Sun are scientific musicians living under the disguise of art school experimentalists.

It’s a pleasure to dissect all eight compositions on Voyage. The lyrics make up less than three stanzas throughout the entire album, but the music is an expressive language of its own. You’ll fail to notice the simple Black Sabbath coating of ‘Seadevil’ amid a whirling lens flare of ethereal melodies. The spindly strings of the down-tuned bass hold the foundations together until they transition to a head-rolling Mastodon riff for the climax. This is how you merge alternative rock, metal, and shoegaze onto the same canvass with clarity and abstraction.

Voyage is a journey that submerges you and opens your eyes to colourful pastures and distant phobias. It’s a heavy weight on your shoulders when you’re at the bottom of the seabed, but it’s also exciting. A strain of optimism wedges its way into your field of vision during the KEN Mode noise assault of the closing track. Håvard Sveberg’s drum patterns refuse to conform to a conventional sequence, yet they never feel like an offbeat odyssey. The shoegaze experiment in metal might be ready to achieve its potential.

Grant the Sun are a welcome reminder that alternative rock and metal can co-exist once more like they did in the 1990s. Who’d have thought that a trio of musicians from the birthplace of black metal would remind us of this phenomenon?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 09/06/2023

Record Label: Mas-Kina Recordings

Standout tracks: Machina, Mariana, Hits Like a Wave

Suggested Further Listening: She Said Destroy – Bleeding Fiction 2: Child of Tomorrow (2022), Klone – Meanwhile (2023), Hammok – Now I Know EP (2023)