Pale Grey Lore: Eschatology, Album Review
Throughout history, the apocalypse has been viewed as a metaphysical reckoning where some higher power would use their wrath to end the world in fire and brimstone. Those beliefs are still out there (and it’s cool whatever you believe), but for the first time in history, we ourselves are capable of bringing about Earth’s demise. We’re just the push of a button away from a nuclear holocaust. Or perhaps another decade or two of remaining ignorant of the effects of global warming will do the trick. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs, biological weapons, technological advances we aren’t quite ready to co-inhabit with, or letting the Amazon burn down are also good starts. You get the idea. Considering all of human history, we’ve only become capable of destroying it all within the past 100 years. It’s a scary thought. I hope that we can learn to cooperate as a planet and collaborate in overcoming these obstacles, but damn it I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my doubts.
A deep discussion about the end of times isn’t what I expected to walk into when I agreed to meet with the guys in Pale Grey Lore a few Sundays back, but that’s what I got during our two-hour conversation that would have been much easier to relay as a podcast. Freudian concepts, intra-band relationships, and touring strategies were among the few other topics covered during our engaging and philosophically dense conversation revolving around their upcoming album titled Eschatology, out September 6th on Small Stone Records. Don’t worry, I had to look up the definition for this gnarly word too. Eschatology is the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and humankind (Wikipedia); themes that are tightly woven into the narrative held within the highly anticipated second studio album from the Columbus based doom-psych quartet. Read my review of their debut album here.
Each song on the album is a chapter of a larger narrative, collectively portraying a story of destruction and the inexorable fate of humankind. It’s a fictional story of an Earth that has been laid to waste by the rich and powerful, leaving the masses to suffer and die while the culprits flee the planet and all its devastation. Being the impatient person I am, I was delighted when they offered me a sneak preview of the ten track album. After listening through twice I can understand their excitement and eagerness to share this work of sorcery with the world.
The first three songs on the album have already been premiered as singles, all of which present their brutal subjects tastefully. “Sunken Cities,” the first song on the album, alludes to a colony of people who dwell beneath the surface of a lifeless planet. It begins with atmospheric guitar tones dropping you into a toxic fog-filled wasteland of a soundscape and a foreboding bass melody playing out within it before giving rise to the entrance of thrash-doom guitar riffs, growling bass, death march drums, and sweeping atmospheric tones. “Before the Fall” comes in with sludgier swells of low end, coarse-grained fuzz, and the words of the narrator longing for the life they had before it all came crashing down. A third single called “Greed Springs Eternal” was dropped into the world last week. Uptempo and driving, this track boasts a punky garage rock feel with a reverb-heavy guitar melody that lifts you from the acidic low end that carries the song.
Possibly my favorite track on the album, and one that highlights the album’s diversity, is “Waiting for the Dawn.” It’s weary ode of longing that has the dazed feel of a desolate wasteland as “dust and ashes swirl under yellow skies.” Acoustic strings and sun-scorched guitar tones create a dreamy state of isolation in a land devoid of life. “The Rift” abandons the wastelands and takes you into the cosmos with its spacey guitar riff and inter-dimensional groove. This is also where the story gets weird with the arrival of inter-dimensional beings who merge an ancient timeline with our own transforming half of the planet into a barren wasteland. “Void-Cursed” is a fuzzed out long play that depicts the story of the rich who flee the Earth they’ve destroyed to find themselves as “refugees forever in the void.” It’s a larger than life track with a breakdown that’s sinister as hell. Wrapping up the album is the title track “Eschatology.” Ghostly howls surround a guitar riff that means business on this track that tells the story of a death cult leader who’s hell bent on facilitating the destruction of the world.
Pale Grey Lore set the bar high for themselves with their first album, but you’ll soon see (or rather hear) that the territory they’re capable of covering is vast and they’re not afraid to explore it. They’ve experimented with the different directions they could go, and the result is a well rounded psychedelic journey to realms previously unknown. Eschatology masterfully traverses and incorporates a diverse array of sounds and styles, but the atmosphere created in each song assures you that each one is part of the same world. On surface level Eschatology seems to have a more guttural quality and doom laced vibe than its predecessor, but as you dive deeper you’ll come to appreciate the intricately layered sonic nuances that give rise to the albums personality. It’s grittier and perhaps a little more brutal than the previous release, but it also boasts melodic vocals, atmospheric ambiance, and textural embellishments making it tonally complex and potently psychedelic. Eschatology evokes the lingering sensation of dread, but it carries it in many ways over the course of its ten tracks. At times it’s irresistibly groovy, but it proves to be capable of instilling the listener with a sense of chaos and impending doom during others. If Pale Grey Lore had a melting pot of genres, I imagine they cooked up Eschatology by boiling doom and stoner metals in an iron vat out in the garage, sprinkling it with shoegaze space dust, and lacing it with LSD.
Good psych music should envelop you and incite different states of mind. It should create a setting and take you there for the rest of the music to be heard. An album deeply entrenched in its story such as this one should take you on a journey that’s cinematic in nature. This is something I noted about their first album and was pleased to experience again this time around. Underground caverns, spaceships, and the cosmos are just a few of the locations they discussed trying to create soundscapes for on this album. When the music gives rise to sensations that are coherent with the message the song is trying to portray, there comes a potent emotional effect. What I love about Pale Grey Lore is their ability to take you away from reality for 45 minutes and drop you into a world they’ve created with their music, even if that world is crumbling on all fronts.
An album about the end of the world is fitting for a band whose sound is heavily steeped in doom undertones, but their reasoning and intelligence behind it is what makes it so intriguing to me. The aim of the album is both political and philosophical, and it was inspired by some of the realities we as a generation face today. The reality you find yourself in while listening to this album isn’t too far fetched, except for the inter-dimensional beings and merging of two separate timelines perhaps. Our planet has reached a breaking point where we as a race must learn to overcome the obstacles we’re facing or we truly could tip the domino that cascades us into destruction. Michael explained that this is a true anxiety that they feel, and one that we all probably feel from time to time. Individually, there’s only so much we can do to alleviate the problem. We’re all still responsible for doing the best that we can to alleviate the problems we face as a global society, but to truly steer clear of global disaster changes must be made by the governments and corporations who structure the way we operate. Much of it though is out of our control and therefore it’s difficult to alleviate the tension we feel concerning it all. This album, he explained, is the sublimation of their anxieties regarding these global problems. Their music is the manifestation of their philosophical and political ideals and their most efficient way of expressing themselves.
They aren’t negative people, quite the contrary. They believe in helping people in our community who are being supressed by capitalism and the faulty systems put in place by our government. They aren’t all talk when it comes to supporting this belief either. They’ve played shows to fundraise for organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Democratic Socialists of America in an effort to back their beliefs. Their topics might be heavy, but they aren’t pessimistic assholes. They’re just realists who are genuinely concerned about the state of the world and the people in our community. Despite the dark overtones of their music, they assured me that when they play live they’re there to give you a good time and have one themselves. I can attest to that, having seen them in the past and having a killer time at said show. They want to speak their mind, but they also want you to vibe out too.
They assured me a great deal of effort was put into this one which has all the components of a sci-fi novel. It’s a heavily thematic story told by its ten tracks which they’re proud to say are all unique yet cohesively tied together. They began writing these songs over a year ago and were already in the studio when some of them blossomed into their final form. After the initial tracking, they found themselves listening back intently, identifying where they could add layers and embellishments. The album is characterized by its far-reaching story, carefully crafted sonics, philosophical and political overtones, and a passion for the music that enriches their lives with meaning. The album which is due out on September 6th via Small Stone Records was recorded at Mindfield Recording & Mixing by Andy Sartain who also recorded their first, self-titled album. They accomplished what they set out to do with amazing precision, and I’m sure anyone who dabbles in the psychedelic realm with thoroughly enjoy this album as much as I have. Give them a follow, take the journey this Friday, and get out to one of their shows!