I admit to being a newcomer to Grails. My first taste of their brand of experimental psychedelic rock was “Reincarnation Blues” on the latest Wire Tapper compilation. I’m not able, therefore, to review Doomsdayer’s Holiday in the context of the band’s previous work. It’s quite a tough album to get a handle on. It’s not that it’s wilfully difficult – far from it – but the disparate sounds and influences don’t always quite gel somehow.
Things get off to a flying start with the sludge metal attack of the title track, and the aforementioned “Reincarnation Blues”. The latter melds Zeppelin style riffing with North African pipes and a spacey, ambient outro – like an instrumental cousin of “Kashmir” for the twentyfirst century. There are John Barry influences to “Natural Man” redolent of sixties spy movies in the Harry Palmer mould.
Thereafter things lose a little focus. “Immediate Mate” comes from the Jackie-O Motherfucker school of free jamming, with dubby bass and shades of the Floyd’s “Saucerful of Secrets”. “Predestination Blues” features Alan Bishop, and sounds a lot like his old band the Sun City Girls with its combination of droning raga and spaced out blues-rock. It’s loose, but has some kind of grounded centre unlike the following “X-Contaminations” which just kind of drifts by unnoticed.
Traditionally things should end with an epic, and “Acid Rain” fulfils that role. Combining the more introspective side of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and mid-period Floyd – particularly Nick Mason’s drumming at its most pedestrian, and Rick Wright at his most understated – the track limps along to a close without ever seeming to have much of a point.
It’s a better record than I make it seem. It’s just that after the genuinely thrilling first few tracks, it runs out of steam. It’s an enjoyable 37 minutes, but frustrating in that it could be really special. The eclecticism of the sounds and influences gives the band a unique palette to work from, but it feels like they are still figuring out how best to use it. My curiosity is certainly aroused enough to want to hear their previous work.
1 Doomsdayer’s Holiday 3:24
2 Reincarnation Blues 4:25
3 The Natural Man 4:41
4 Immediate Mate 5:43
5 Predestination Blues 6:20
6 X-Contaminations 4:56
7 Acid Rain 8:00