Gothenburg metalcore-djent-groovers, Grayscale Season, are one of the few bands to take little inspiration from the famous death metal sound of their city. That sentence alone will stop many of you reading this review. That’s because they operate in the same circles as Humanity’s Last Breath and Vildhjarta and employ eight-string guitars with tunings that could make God’s stomach rumble. Now on their third outing after 2019’s Everything Hurts, the trio decided to bring in Vildjharta’s Buster Odeholm as a co-writer – a man who appeared on our radar last month as the drummer and producer of the debut thrown EP. You’d be right to have reservations after the disastrous comeback album of Odeholm’s more famous band in 2021, but Do You Like Violence is a surprising success for song writing and coherency. And it’s damn heavy.
Perhaps the biggest asset of this album is the willingness of Eddie Lejhagen to expand his compelling falsetto voice in the most unusual of audio settings. Opener, ‘Pink Mist’, is an impressive arrangement of melancholy piano notes and high-pitched voice techniques that soar with sentimental attachment in a world that values nothing in being nostalgic. You might even smile and close your eyes until a sudden eruption of double-kick patterns and syncopated guitars slice through your skull while you’re expecting an Indian head massage. The blast beats and macho growls near the end are enough to burn you in your sunbed. Think of the latest Underoath record but multiply the power of the guitars by ten, and you’re still nowhere near the textures they embroider here.
Of course, Grayscale Season’s weapon of choice is the low-tuned guitar played through an octave pedal. ‘Volatile’ takes the guitar tone of Humanity’s Last Breath and the violent chugs of Odeholm’s thrown project yet still delivers an abstract melody underneath the carnage. How do they insert such soothing harmonies into this monstrous distortion? ‘Champagne Season’ is like an absurd take on the first Korn album with the modern technique of Alpha Wolf. Nu metal this is not, even if it attempts to move to the centre with a nod to the Deftones for its chorus. Can you even hear the notes changes of the opening riff to ‘Luxury Depression’ among the bass-heavy contortions? The guitars are lower than Roman Polanski’s moral stance on young girls.
You could stomach a whole album of this sonic bludgeoning, but Grayscale Season turn this record into a bizarre alternative rock interpretation of soul during the midsection just when you’re adjusting your ears by six semitones. Who’d have thought that Odeholm – he of the ‘thall’ micro-genre of djent – would co-write and appear on a song that allows Lejhagen to explore the maudlin textures of Brian Molko (Placebo) through a channel of Meshuggah riffs. ‘Violence’ does not reflect its title. This one is a poignant piano ballad that morphs into an arpeggiated synth sequence with vocoder effects. It’s a breakup song with some of the darkest lyrics you’ll hear this year: “If I could just tell you how much I need you in one verse/ If I leave you, you won’t be able to leave me first/ I am fucking worthless. Fucking hurt me,” croons Lejhagen, as if reciting a soul ballad.
The consistency of this record is impressive. It’s not spectacular or ground-breaking, but few songs fall into obscurity. Only the djent interpretation of dubstep on ‘Side Effects’ and the Korn homage on ‘Summer’ raise eyebrows for the wrong reasons. The lyrics to ‘Pillow Grin’ will make you spit out your milkshake. “I never saw God ‘til I fucked you”. Did he just sing that in a happy falsetto voice? You’re still mulling this over when the band deliver a drop-tuned thrash version of Biohazard on ‘Human Resources’ and crush you with a slow-bled deathcore breakdown at the end.
Perhaps Zeal & Ardor are the best reference point for where Grayscale Season find themselves on this record. The band go far beyond the one-dimensional chug riffs and deep into the colour of bigger and brighter pastures. They don’t always succeed, but they show that the calibration between violent guitars and muscular rage can co-exist with late afternoon sunsets.
Release Date: 15/04/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Volatile, Luxury Depression, Now Let’s Make Those Teeth Leave Your Pretty Mouth
Suggested Further Listening: thrown – Extended Pain EP (2022), Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing (1998), The Last Ten Seconds of Life – The Last Ten Seconds of Life (2022)