The Great Gray Funk have revealed one of the most enjoyable, if agonizingly difficult things about doing this blog, which is trying to come up with new and interesting ways to communicate to the reader how good a band is. If you do this for a while, you become painfully aware of how often you use the same phrase over and over again. For instance, you could probably have a drinking game built around every time I use the word “amazing.” As Metallica once said, sad but true…
There’s one thing that goes through my mind, a lot, when writing about a band of the caliber of the Great Gray Funk. I always want to write a bit about the headphones I use, and the other equipment. I’ll have to write about that stuff at some point…
Hi Fidelity suggested
Without getting too nerdy, I will tell you that about two minutes into the first song, Cortisol, I switched headphones. My first choice, all around headphones are the Sennheiser HD-6XX. At roughly $199, they’re a bargain, and a couple steps of above “entry level audiophile.” Perfect for all-around RAWK and even jazz/classical. They’re not too revealing, and the overall balance and quality is usually found above $500. At a virtual tie are my beloved Apple Airpod Max’s, which are scary good and violate every principle I learned after years on Head-Fi. Despite that programming, Bluetooth and noise cancellation do NOT suck.
Some music calls for something more revealing, more “elevated.” I have a couple sets that fit the bill, but The Great Gray Funk told me pretty quickly that it was time for the Big Guns, the Sennheiser HD-800S. The 800S’s are brutally revealing headphones. Not as sharp as the original HD-800’s, but still analogous to an electron microscope. The biggest WOW factor though is their soundstage: as close to speakers as I’ve ever heard from headphones that cost less than $5000. And no, I don’t own anything that expensive.
All the audiophile stuff doesn’t mean a thing if the music doesn’t live up to the production. A lot of that kind of music is like, “wow” as far as the production tricks go, but boring as hell if the songs aren’t great. No need to worry, ’cause this is some great stuff. Cortisol kicks things off with a straight-ahead rock riff and catchy na-na-na vocals. Then, Yola Zitter switches to a style that would be right at home in a smokey jazz club in Vienna.
Vacuum Thoughts starts out quirky and bouncy, evolving into the kind of high-energy groove that darker bands usually avoid. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks, mostly because of the effective use of different styles.
That’s the one constant Great Gray Funk delivers, song after song. They seem to be contrasting light/dark touches in each song. It makes for a bleak yet beautiful palette, and a great example is the chorus in Eritis Sicut Deus, or You Will Be As God for us non-Latin speaking types. The riff is tight, the vocals pristine and nuanced with a nice groove throughout the whole song. The chorus is ethereal and otherworldly, contrasting the sparseness of the main riff.
Faceless is a clever and nuanced take on a traditional riff and chord progression, building tension underneath another effortless vocal performance. I think the fact that it’s not “crushing and devastating” increases the impact of the piece. Yola’s vocals approach Diana Krall territory with her silky smooth delivery, and it leaves me wondering why she’s chosen heavy, doomy music as her mode of expression.
Like Messa, the same can be asked of the whole band. I can’t help but notice the unexpected rush of talent into the Doom musical space, from Divide and Dissolve to the up and coming greatness of EvilLeaf. The Great Gray Funk are world-class musicians based on what I heard on this recording. If your taste tilts more to the raw and awesome riffage of bands like Skull Servant or the consistent heaviness and mind-expansion of Acid King, they may come across as a bit out of place. Don’t get me wrong: they absolutely rock, it’s just that The Great Gray Funk have a few tricks up their sleeves.
But if you crave something out of the ordinary, with a dash of elegance in your dark and foreboding music, The Great Gray Funk might be your next favorite band. And if you have anything in your audio arsenal better than generic iPods or Beats, you’re in for a sonic treat!