GALICIA – Precipice (2022)REVIEW

A six-armed, eleven-legged claw n’ crawl toward transcendentally achieved pastiche of anxietous dread. — Building up a grotesque cyclonic storm from zombified parts, easily bruised flowers, and the blood of their chewed and thorned-over hands Whittier, California-based black/death metal duo Galicia scramble towards the guile of their own sophisticated ideas in harried press, as if their lives depended upon the immediate friction of the six songs that make up their debut full-length releasing from the mind post-haste. Presented as a series of crazed yet sentimental heavy metal quilts ‘Precipice‘ represents the not-at-all damning dichotomy between the elite romanticist melodic-yet-brutal black/death ideal and novice practicum wherein the intent of the artist is readably majestic yet their first blind run through the colonnades leaves them humbled to some degree, yet triumphal for the pernicious way they’ve absolutely battled through the mayhemic scrawling of this thing and managed admirable results in the process.

Precipice‘ is a fantastic, if not ill-advised, chance to briefly consider the generally undernourished, derivative history of polyphonic arrangements in harmony rich, or, melody-driven black and death metal since it allows us to distinguish the normative “Baroque”-esque generalist use of counterpoint during the peak black/death metal renaissance in the early 90’s (‘Blessed are the Sick‘, ‘With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness‘, ‘Finis Malorum‘, et al.) wherein one or two melodies are mathematically separated into a 2-4 channel guitar arrangement in homophonous orchestration (lets just say, matching rhythmic map) with dissonant and/or harmonious connections established as a point of indirectly achieved purpose. The true second generation of this form largely arrived through melodic death metal incompetence, green dual guitar teams unable to map comparably clever currents of consonance into a quasi-dissonant format meant the underground garage-bound troops of yore most often emphasized the chaos caused by entirely unrelated notes clashing by introducing additional voices/inflections, or, more continuously blunted connections between the aforementioned dissected melodies. Demilich were not the first to do so as a point of avant-garde reasoning but they offer a fine enough example to start with in terms of desired listener effect. There are various examples of groups exploring dual voicing as a point of purpose (Condor), as part of their own unique mastery of composition with contrasting melodicism in unique time signature (Mefitis) whereas others merely create the effect through mechanically separated chaos (early Abigor), yet we cannot directly assign these notable forces as precedence for the work of Galicia by default and frankly because they’ve got so much else going at at all times.

Upon closer inspection it turns out we’ve the right general idea, probably got a few technicalities wrong, and have pointed our brain holes into a too vaguely plausible psychic gene pool in approach of ‘Precipice‘. — Galicia‘s first EP (‘World Wars Endless Storms‘, 2021) seems to have been a less serious exploration of these rhythmic challenges, resembling some love for the grinding abysm of ‘Dawn Bringer‘-era Order From Chaos before their more sophisticated follow-up (‘Serpentine Descension‘, 2021) began featuring hot-jogging dissonance, black/thrashing thrust n’ screech, and melodic black metal which was all more clearly in line with Axis of Advance‘s ‘Landline‘ EP and debut album ‘Strike‘, both of which compressed their greyed-out sub-genre admixture a few inches beyond the overcharged slugging of Sacramentary Abolishment‘s first two LPs. This meant very colorful and loud dual vocals, frantic arrangements which fixated on dramatist heavy metal movements in juxtaposition with death-grinding pulse, with intermittent and uncontrolled stabs at clashing melodic voicing. Those EPs had been adventurous, demo quality, and yet managed some sort of overblown personality which wasn’t initially so obviously built on the back of the previously mentioned bands at a glance. Now that I’ve sat with ‘Precipice‘ more than a few times and taken in this outsized, freakout grind style dual vocal harangue (plus a bit of Proscriptor) style of performance I am numb enough to see the forest for the trees and it all sounds a bit on fire, skittering a bit too hard between various modes and occasionally landing upon a genius black/death moment worth repeating.

Right out of the gates “Solidifying an Epoch Under the Vapor Canopy” comes with a glut of ideas and not enough space to breathe. Two distinct guitar voices, three vocal styles (two narrative, one gassy flourish), and a grindcore sped Absu-adjacent black-thrashing sense of arrangement makes for a completely satisfying maximal treatment of what is still essentially melodic death metal achieved in dual-layered polyphonic glory. If we can look past the overbearing guttural-puked vocals, the ‘Tara‘-esque hysterics, and the initial chaos of the opening moments which may too quickly define the ‘Precipice‘ experience we find a fairly expressive bass guitar performance beneath, providing a strong enough spine for the action and pulling the ear away from the left-channeled HM-2 knock-off distortion on “Refract the Nonsubmerged”, an otherwise standout song which is brutally scarred by the bad metalcore riff they end it with. By the time “The Forwarding” begins grinding away at its first wobbly right channeled heavy metal (by way of sentimental black metal) riff it should be clear enough that Galicia are not going to relent for these ~32 minutes but they will eventually ease up on the at times unreadable orchestration of their songs for the sake of presenting a Grand Belial’s Key style stab at heavy rock melody or transitional moments.

In fact, these guys start to sound downright normal as hell on standout piece “Despondent Deity” and not because they’ve calmed down but because most extreme metal ears will have adapted to the scattered “noise” of it all and begun to enjoy the distractingly chaotic flourishes of the vocalists as a point of amateurish, over-the-top character. There are some beauteous arcs of interest on this album, most of them stuttering beneath the weight of Galicia‘s penchant for quixotic ambling, but there are nonetheless many neatly outlined and sophisticated melodic guitar runs on this record which quickly salvage it from the junk bin. It is also mercifully short, so the time needed to gain familiarity is minimal and the detail rich enough that multiple listens come easy and absolutely advised. The almost sludge-pained scrapes of “No Phoenix Will Rise” ends up being most of the payoff for becoming familiar with the scatterbrained vernacular of ‘Precipice‘ and I only emphasize its strong closing stature because “Becoming Entropy” belabors the guttural vocal work, which’d already become tiresome by the third song.

Precipice‘ is in essence the argument to be made for folk art, craftsmanship without learned finesse, a certain type of “genius” without pretense occurring neither consistently nor by accident within a work which survives in the mind of the hobbyist/collector for the sake of its enormous personae and precedence within impossibly rare niche. Galicia offer a somewhat refreshing distort to the status quo with this debut, that which is which was doomed from the start to persist as a formative effort enjoyed by a few outlier brains who will already see the vision for the mad as Hell glory it proposes. Count me in as someone who sees more than potential here, a flood of outrageous style arriving in such droves that their skill level can barely catch up. They’ll get there quickly if their three releases are any indication thus far. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Hessian Firm
RELEASE DATE:October 21st, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.