With neither Maitreya, nor any equivalent awakened, arriving for another two thousand five hundred years an obsession with the horrors awaiting this way-early endtyme for humanity is entirely warranted. You may not be able to abate the collapse of sustainable ecosystems or reconfigure society away from the greed-stricken cyber-barbarism of today, and you most certainly will not be able to choose the way that you’ll die… but, there is yet satisfaction to be had within art expressing grief for our beloved doomed planet. The end in sight, the blame, the fires and the sound of lungs slowly choked to death by chemically enriched dust circle in the mind like vultures as Colombus, Ohio psychedelic doom/heavy psych band Pale Grey Lore cough up a fine lung-buttered lament for the ungraceful suffering of life on Earth within their sophomore full-length ‘Eschatology’. Though I’ve painted a cloud-ridden wasteland cluttered with toxic waste, grayed bones and torrents of infectious mud the quartet rest neither upon pure decimation nor whirl utter darkness whilst bringing the heavy 90’s stoner rock/garage psych vibes of their 2016 debut into the wretched stew of uncertainty today.
In fact the theme of ‘Eschatology’ isn’t necessarily set in reality so much as it is a reflection of it– A quickly aggrandized ‘What if…‘ scenario where the post-apocalypse (by way of climate change and corporate greed) finds the responsible parties getting their due process, leaving survivors raptured in an vague tale of cosmic overlords who’d bequeath an anomaly of contrasting poles shared between ancient times and modern dystopian blight. The lush haven of stone and jungle squared next to an equal part of inexcusable hell on Earth is a thrilling visualization although the music of Pale Grey Lore is not a balance of extremes so much as it is a consistently top-tier blend of stoner rock buzz, psychedelic doom doldrum, and uptempo garage rock’d hooks from a heavy point of view. Alt-rock infused space rock, summery stoner jams, and some gloomier doom hits had the band’s debut, ‘Pale Grey Lore’ (2016), exciting the sort of psych-doom/rock fandom aligned with groups like Magic Circle, Holy Serpent, Ice Dragon and yet the Ohio band stood out for their heavier emphasis on psychedelic rock guitar heroics and sweaty washes of mountain-climbing basslines. Much of this is still true with regard for ‘Eschatology’ but the ready initiated listener should expect to hear some greater tension and darkness in these forward-leaping, accomplished and bold-intentioned pieces. Nothing as bleak and ‘hard’ as Cities of Mars but songwriting as dark and on-the-level as say, Snail‘s underrated ‘Feral’ album from a few years back.
“We are trapped / We cannot leave / There’s not much oxygen to breathe / If we don’t starve / We’ll surely freeze / Or else succumb to some disease…” greets us as the major chorus of “Sunken Cities”, an uncomfortable examination of what’ll be left when the idiocy of the wealthy elite on the planet rocket themselves off of the planet. Dooming themselves and ‘stranding’ those left behind to survive. You might be thinking that this anthropocene subject matter is very timely and unique to today but it’d be easy to trace these ideas within rock and heavy metal well beyond twenty years prior. Here what is remarkable isn’t the relevance of what it feels like to be alive today but the incredible oft-sullen melodies and heavy blues drenched push of the first few tracks on ‘Eschatology’. The mood is set beautifully and the results are immense. “Greed springs eternal / From evil minds / Investigate the scene of the crime…” has rung in the bell-shaped cavity that holds my brain for weeks and that chorus is just one of many king-sized leaps forward for Pale Grey Lore‘s songwriting since 2016 to be found on ‘Eschatology’. The sullen boogie of “Regicide”, the fiery wall-scaling stoner metal jog of “The Rift”, the wailing lighting strike of the leads on down-trodden doom burner “Void-Cursed”, it all impresses from the first listen as each song feels ‘crafted’ and intentionally different from the last. This’d be where the psychedelic, stoner, space, and doom influences create a set of different moods and textures without all mushing together into one sound. The result is distinct for its songwriting and performances and not how well it fits into any one particular heavy rock mode.
The psychedelic balladry of “Waiting For the Dawn” is likely to be the decider for folks compelled by descriptions of Pale Grey Lore only because the song goes to a softer place that hits all the more hard for going there; Not to mention the space-surfing guitar lead that crawls out of the last third of the song, as it has ended up being one of my favorite moments on the record. “Silent Command” is where I mentally check out a bit, it doesn’t really fit well within the thread of Side B and clashes with the anthemic almost Slough Feg-esque guitar work on “Undermined.” The longest and perhaps moodiest track on the album is also its exodus in the form of the title track, which builds to an anticlimax. This was felt like an unfinished song initially but it is quickly followed by about two minutes of meditation that I greatly appreciated during long listening sessions where ‘Eschatology’ had proven itself fantastic when repeated more than once in a row. The full listen is immersive and redeeming to say the least; A tug at the crushed spirit and an oily hug of psychedelic waters offer a bittersweet balance of dark moods and uplifting light, all of it memorable.
‘Eschatology’ is positively ballooning with fresh ideas, ever-weaving melodicism, and the right sort of cathartic narrative that’ll grip the listener by their chest and shake them free of the catatonia-inducing chaotic reality of today. What I’d expected would be an average heavy psychedelic rock album quickly became a major part of my late summer inventory: An ice cold drink that’d replenish and last to a seemingly endless degree. Very highly recommended, for folks who’d bend easily between heavy psych, garage psych, and stoner doom. For preview purposes I’d suggest the duo of “Sunken Cities” and “Greed Springs Eternal” really do offer as much adrenaline as they do soul-dragging intoxication but, I’d also recommend the duo of “Waiting For the Dawn” and “Void-Cursed” for a more complete impression.
Under yellow skies. 4.5/5.0
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