Every year there’s always one. End of November is usually the time when the year end lists get busted out, usually in a race to be the first one to call some shots and stir the pot with an unconventional pick or two. I’m no different, and in preparation for our year end lists going up, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my picks for quite some time, all the while forgetting that December is a thing and that there might just be a hidden gem waiting to upset that whole process. Grayceon’s Mothers Weavers Vultures is that gem.
The San Francisco based power trio is composed of guitarist Max Doyle, drummer Zack Farwell and cellist/vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz, whose name might sound familiar if you’ve ever heard a cello on a metal album before. Her credits include tenures in Giant Squid and Amber Asylum, as well as guest spots with the likes of Agalloch and Neurosis. It’s definitely an unconventional setup, but it works for the blend of post-metal and prog rock that the band purveys. Mothers Weavers Vultures is the band’s fifth full-length release, immediately following the critically acclaimed IV, and represents what is arguably their most emotionally deep and evocative release yet. “Mothers Weavers Vultures is a passionate piece about both love and fear for humankind as we know it. The collection of songs reflects upon love for mother nature and how humans have betrayed her, how we have all played a role in this betrayal, and the hopeful/hopeless path toward making things right again,” says the band. Gratz’s lyrics focus intently on environmental issues and the compassion (or lack thereof) in humanity today, soaring over and growling under fleet-fingered guitar riffs, pounding drums and melodic cello stabs. It hits in an especially deep place, both in terms of the emotional pull of the music and the heartfelt, heavy lyrics, but it’s backed up with really killer musicianship to help ground the whole piece.
Right off the bat, the first two minutes of opener “Diablo Wind” are some of the most mesmerizing music I’ve heard all year. Everybody has a thing with cellos, I’m even pretty sure there’s science to back up why it sounds so fucking good, but this is still especially haunting and jaw-dropping. Layers of deep, resonant cello build over Doyle’s impressive, technical riffs and Farwell’s ever-shifting percussion, moving effortlessly between doomy metal, punky thrash and spacey prog. There is a wide range of dynamics in play here, but every aspect is very carefully balanced. There isn’t too much space, nor do any of the instruments compete or overpower each other. Mothers Weavers Vultures is proggy in the same way that Elder or Pallbearer are proggy: long compositions, plenty of evolution of the songs over time, unconventional instrumentation and arrangements, but everything comes together in a cohesive unit that is more than just the sum of its parts. Still, the singular thing that holds it all together is Gratz’s poignant lyrics. “This Bed” utilizes a hefty amount of figurative language to equate the current state of the environment and the world to a literal and metaphorical bed. In “The Lucky Ones”, when she cries “If you want the moon, don’t hide from the night/If you want the rose, don’t hide from its thorns/If you want love, don’t hide from yourself/Worship the ground you walk on,” it doesn’t feel like a cheesy positivity post you’d find on a random corner of the internet. It feels like a sincere call to embrace the good in oneself, despite how terrible everything might seem outwardly. The whole album is a call to action, one framed with righteous riffs, gorgeous melodies and deft percussion.
Mothers Weavers Vultures is an album so good it makes me ashamed that I did not see it coming from farther away. As someone who is equally passionate about the environment and beautiful metal, this is an album that can’t afford to be slept on, not when the end of the year is right here and it’s time to start putting numbers to things. As an added bonus, all profits from digital preorders made from the band will be donated to Defenders of Wildlife and The Wildlife Conservation Society. Get yours now and do something for yourself and the planet.