Samstag, 16. Mai 2015


The Italian quintet Graal first came to prominence in 2005 when it released its full-length debut album "Realm of Fantasy". Since then the band has hooked up with its native label Bloodrock Records, and two more productions have seen the light: "Tales Untold" in 2007 and "Legends Never Die" in early 2011.

Now they're back with their new output "Chapter IV" which is far by the most mature and complete of their discography, underlining a constant and progressive growth. Musically Graal is placed well inside the retro-oriented hard rock universe: few touches of southern rock Molly Hatchet-style, some details heralding a plausible Deep Purple influence, others with similarities closer to Iron Maiden and early 80's UFO, with occasional additional flavorings folk-oriented.
My first impressions were a bit skewed, even thrown off, as the band starts off the album with Little Song, an acoustic song with slight folk nuances. But then follows with Pick Up All The Faults a hard rock number with a heavy metal feel. But then you notice something else. Graal has warped into the past. Their sound is this retro-fitted classic hard rock that sounds somewhere between 1978 and 1983, complete with touch of keyboards sounding like a Hammond. It's what some might characterize as proto-metal, but it's being played in the 21st century. I'm also sure there's more than a few people who will read this and only see "retro' and think old. But they would be wrong.
In the wrong hands, Chapter IV would probably sound old to some. But Graal has a keen sense of the roots of classic hard rock and metal. Whether it's the fundamental groove of the rhythm section, the swirl of keyboards, an abundance of clean but stinging guitar, or smooth melodies and vocal harmonies, the band works the elements like craftsman. This music may not captivate the idiot youngster trying to keep his pants up. But those who have a sense of history will get this music.
Heavier numbers come also with Lesser Man and Shadow Play, both of which move on the strength of guitar riffs. Sometimes songs start with the keyboards, and nearly throw you off. With Guardian Devil it's brief and leads to song driven by bass and drum in less heavy more subdued atmosphere. At the start of Last Hold you might think you bumped back another decade to the psychedelic Sixties. But this leads into another hard rock number. Yet the keyboards stay present turning later to piano about the midpoint, then back to synths. Some of Graal's best music is left for the end with A Poetry For A Silent Man and Northern Cliff, both instrumentals. The first is pure piano, simple, nearly melancholy. The latter finds a nice fusion of acoustic and electric guitar with underlying keys, notable piano, all held together by steady and presence rhythm. I think I liked these two songs more than any of the others. Fundamentally, for listeners unfamiliar with their style, Graal and Chapter IV will take some time understanding before they enjoy it. Jump right in, I say. Graal is quite adept and creative at their retro and proto melodic hard rock and metal.