Review & Track Premiere: Pale Grey Lore, Eschatology

Pale Grey Lore Eschatology

[Click play above to stream ‘Before the Fall’ from Pale Grey Lore’s Eschatology. Album is out Sept. 6 on Small Stone Records.]

In theology, eschatology refers to the ultimate fate of humanity, whether that’s the apocalypse or being one with the universe or whatever it might be in a given belief system. Ohio heavy rock four-piece Pale Grey Lore, whose Eschatology marks their debut on Small Stone Records and follows behind a well-received 2016 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a fairly grim picture of environmental destruction, capitalist ravaging and otherworldly semi-salvation, and it comes expressed in 10 tracks and 42 minutes of varied, atmospheric songcraft that roughs up the sound of the first album somewhat without losing the underlying structure that helped make those songs so memorable, so that from opener “Sunken Cities” onward, Pale Grey Lore establish a balance between spaciousness and hook-making, and whether that’s heard in the massive low-end roll of “Before the Fall” or the winding, Queens of the Stone Age-style “Greed Springs Eternal” just before it, the sense of poise comes through in overarching vocal melodies and harmonies between guitarists Michael Miller and Xander Roseberry as well as in the fluidity of groove from bassist Donovan Johnson and drummer Adam Miller.

Those who heard the first album will perhaps be most struck by the pervasiveness of mood throughout Eschatology, and that comes through whether a given song is fast or slow, loud or quiet, as Miller and Roseberry vary arrangements of acoustic and electric guitar and sundry effects, and even “Sunken Cities” begins with a minute and a half of ambient introduction before the bassline kicks in to lead into the first verse. But the mood suits Pale Grey Lore, and while it means that their hooks aren’t necessarily as immediate or as up-front as they were, the tradeoff for that is a richer listening experience on the whole, with a depth of tone and concept fleshing out the penchant for songwriting that serves as their foundation. In other words, Pale Grey Lore have become and are becoming a more complex band. This can only be a good thing.

“Sunken Cities” is a suitable plunge to set the tone for the rest of the record, and its mid-paced rollout (after the intro) makes an enticing contrast for the speedier, hookier “Greed Springs Eternal,” which as noted leads into the more lumbering “Before the Fall.” It’s telling that this salvo should be more focused on diversity of craft rather than “frontloading” all the rockers — which they certainly would have had plenty of material to do, with songs like “The Rift,” “Undermined” and “Silent Command” tucked safely away on side B — as it speaks not only to the narrative mission of Eschatology and the story being told, but also the band’s growth as a unit and more progressive priorities, as perhaps most shown on the closing title-track. Even cuts like “Regicide” and “Waiting for the Dawn,” which round out the first half of the album, do so with a marked distinction between them, as the former finds a grungier middle ground and is fleshed out in its verses by howling lead guitar before a second-half crash out and resounding final solo, and the latter caps side A with a quieter arrangement of fuzzy leads and combined acoustic and electric guitar as a bed for echoing vocals, a steady level of snare activity beneath wisely keeping a feeling of movement and grounding to the proceedings.

pale grey lore

By the time they get there, Pale Grey Lore have already shown their proggy intent, but “Waiting for the Dawn” highlights the point and, in a linear format — that is, a CD or DL not requiring the side flip of a vinyl — it’s less an interruption of momentum than a landmark ahead of the takeoff that follows with “The Rift,” as side B works quickly in the three-minute track to give its sense of momentum before slamming it headfirst into album highlight “Void-Cursed,” the arrival of which is marked with a wash of low-end with a solo cutting through and a more lumbering movement that’s soon enough met with resonant vocal harmonies leading to a march outward and, one assumes, a sonic payoff intended to convey the vastness of the void itself. So be it.

The deftness of the turn from “Void-Cursed” to the bouncing surf-punkishness of “Silent Command” isn’t to be understated, as it and the penultimate “Undermined,” which follow, seem to pick up where “The Rift” and “Greed Springs Eternal” left off, still changing their approach from track to track — the backing vocals on “Silent Command,” the Thin Lizzy-isms of “Undermined,” etc. — but keeping runtimes tighter and allowing more of a push to take hold. The fact that those changes occur next to songs like “Waiting for the Dawn” and “Sunken Cities” and “Void-Cursed” and indeed “Eschatology” itself put emphasis on how dynamic Pale Grey Lore‘s approach is becoming on the whole. With the title-track, the clear focus in on melody, but even then, there’s a thrust into noise and a final descent (ascent?) into cacophony that comes coupled with chant-sounding harmonized vocals — pretty sure there’s a screamed layer in there too — before the song itself finishes at just under four minutes and a bookending outro takes hold with echoes of the start of “Sunken Cities” and chimes courtesy of Roseberry leading the way into a more ethereal oblivion.

What the hell happens next? I don’t know, but I’m as curious to find out in terms of the storytelling as I am when it comes to the band itself, who seem to be signaling their readiness to enter a different level of consideration with these songs, and, more specifically, a readiness to tour. Eschatology is a record full of purpose, and the realization of not just a plotline, but a creative vision fleshed out across the work (one would guess) of multiple songwriters coming together toward a common end. It is simultaneously gorgeous and troubling, thoughtful in composition and impact-making in result. I do not know to what it might lead in terms of the band’s plans, but like “Sunken Cities” leads the way into the world they’re creating, so too does Eschatology feel much more like a beginning than an end of all things.

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3 Responses to “Review & Track Premiere: Pale Grey Lore, Eschatology

  1. […] — The Obelisk   Stream / Share PALE GREY LORE’s “Before The Fall” At THIS LOCATION   Eschatology is the impending new full-length from Columbus, Ohio-based psychedelic garage doom […]

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