Zak Riles

It's not a pleasant way to start things off: A series of distant and pained bloodcurdling howls, one after another after another, are what awaits you in the opening seconds of Doomsdayer's Holiday. The brand-new recording—and finest moment yet—from local avant-metal connoisseurs Grails won't shock the metal community with its shrieking introduction (Ever see a Cannibal Corpse album cover?), but it's hard to clear your mind of the screams. They haunt the album, a permanent and dreaded fixture that contributes a grand sense of unease throughout the recording.

The foundation of Grails is a loose ideology that incorporates the volume and blunt mass of metal, while drowning the typical riff-heavy presentation in a heroic dose of artistic flair. And while it might be easy to pass Grails off as just another in a long series of bands with a loyal dedication to packed bongs and the lumbering drum rolls of Bill Ward, their artistic devotion is far more vibrant than that of their fellow brethren in the metal community.

Droning back-to-back tracks "The Natural Man" and "Immediate Mate" act as "Sweet Leaf" comedowns—an audio chill-out tent for the album's previous indiscretions that lead the way to the sprawling "Predestination Blues," where avant golden god Alan Bishop (of Sun City Girls) lends a buried set of moaned vocals to the massive, Eastern–influenced track. To call Doomsdayer's a dark record would be a cheery compliment. What Grails has created here as a follow-up to their Take Refuge in Clean Living EP is beyond dark; it's a black cloak under which even the most promising glimpses of hope are smothered rather abruptly in an opaque wave. This is especially true on the Sabbath-friendly "Reincarnation Blues" where a robust and bluesy classic rock guitar hook—which pounds the frets like the mangled digits of Tony Iommi—is, by mid-song, dragged horrifically into the underworld. This happens at exactly the 1:45 mark, a number that you will never forget—forever torched into your head like the trio of sixes on Damien's skull—once you witness the sweet blues riff get smothered out with muffled drone.

It's the musical accompaniment to the album's screaming introduction, a direct reminder that no matter how tempered and logical Grails may seem, there is something truly sinister occurring on this Doomsdayer's Holiday.