Someone wiser than me once said “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. Ignoring such wise council, I find myself pre-judging the latest disc to land on my disc. Robert Høyem, who has also created art for bands like Sahg, Heksed and Kampfar, has conjured a really beautiful cover to accompany this EP from London-based instrumentalists The Bridesmaid. Picturing a religious figure lost deep in prayer it glows with an eerie presence. Mimicking the effect of woodcut art, his subject matter is all very suggestive of something spiritually ominous, possibly with black metal overtones lurking within and, if not that, then certainly music with an extreme, penetrative construct. The reality is a propulsive sound that, at times, dips its toes into emotionally soothing waters.
The track-titles suggest connections to the names of explorers of continents, rivers and even outer space. The tracks, however, struggle to marry up to my hypothetical concept (try the We Lost The Sea’s deeply-moving “A Gallant Gentleman” if you like the idea and require closure) so I realise I must stop. Diving back into Grayson then with an open mind then… Opener “Oates” crackles into life and slowly builds drawing on warm glossy tones, much like those that colour Skyharbor’s latest single “Evolution”, before releasing into “Ives” which heads deeper into the darker, choppier waters of other instrumental post-rockers like Russian Circles and Pelican. Here the yawning, melancholic backdrop stands in contrast to the driven groove which never quite allows it to get away or develop organically.
Happily, “Aldrin” does offer some evolving panic and heavy action before releasing into a sweet, repeating series of keyed strokes. Only here does it feel like any instrumental lead role is being taken to replace the absence of vocal colouring. The pattern of riffs visit several touch points and eloquently guide the listener along through a strong sequence of shoegaze and post-metal. “Ballack” follows suit in grinding out a darker path without ever quite finding its voice. And therein lies the problem with Grayson as a whole. It doesn’t engage or challenge the listener beyond those initial bursts.
Of course, I understand now why I felt a compulsion to create meaning within. Unguided, experiencing this EP felt like walking into a stranger’s room full of strange objects and even now, after the tenth play, it feels like a record without a mooring. It’s the lack of a lead element that has cast it adrift. Perhaps their future works will feature enough running time to invite true introspection and perhaps then a connection to the contents will follow more naturally.
(5.5/10 John Skibeat)