GNIYRG GNAARG – The Acolytes Feel Sleepy EP

Aside from having an unpronounceable name that’s a nightmare for search engines, Gniyrrg Gnaarg are a Finnish doom metal/stoner rock trio.  Their second EP ‘The Acolytes Feel Sleepy’ presents two long and ambling epics linked by a shorter instrumental piece.  Musically, there are a few interesting moments, but it’s only fair to warn that in terms of performance these guys are pretty ragged, so getting all the way through requires some patience on behalf of the listener.

‘Hololuthrian’ is slow to start, as a solid bassline collides with a fuzzy guitar riff.  That riff shows promise with its tone reminiscent of other stoner works, but the playing is a tiny bit clumsy.  By the time the tune cranks itself up at about the two minute mark, the riffs swells to a full on monolithic metallic slab and in doing so become much more enjoyable.  Predictably, it then subsides in order to accommodate the lead vocal.  This is somewhat of a drawback: although Tommy’s basslines have a decent weighty quality, his vocal style is thin and rather waily.  His accented cries aren’t particularly suited to a metal band and are more than a bit difficult to endure in any more than short bursts.  Luckily, on the chorus section, parts of the vocals are disguised with distortion and all round extra fuzziness…   Add a rudimentary drummer whose playing doesn’t have a particularly huge presence and for nearly nine minutes you’re faced with a piece of music which tries hard – very hard, in fact – but doesn’t always live up to its potential.

‘Nay, A Prophet’ – the EP’s other long piece – is as bewildering as it is entertaining.  The bass lays down an ominous riff at first, with a couple of great high notes, while Leo noodles slowly on his guitar in a jazzy tone.  The drums, meanwhile, plod mechanically – and without any kind of exteme metal riff to disguise them (at least to begin with), the beats almost feel too slow, almost like a recording slightly slowed down.  Although it’s deceptively hard to maintain a slow and pounding beat, Ines, on occasion, sounds like a man who’s not been playing for a long time.  Instrumentally, there is something here potentially more enjoyable than ‘Hololuthrian’ – largely down to a superb fuzz bass – but on the flipside, huge parts of this number are crushed by a giant wailing vocal.  By the closing section, the band crank up into a high gear; with everything played much faster, it’s hard to tell whether Tom’s vocal is off-key on purpose in a gently avant-garde sense, or just plainly off-key…only Gniyrg Gnaarg know that for sure.

The short instrumental ‘A Wizard?’ is this EPs best tune.  It’s not necessarily to do with the lack of vocal especially, but everything to do with a much more focused approach. The riffs take a Black Sabbath blueprint and turns it up to eleven, cranking out long-ish notes in a loop for just over two minutes.  Those riffs have a fuller quality all round, while the brief playing time means there is no room here for needless noodling or padding.  It goes straight for your skull in terms of overall aggression, something helped further by Tommy’s loud rattling bass sound.  This proves that Gniyrg Gnaarg aren’t without talent – just based on most of ‘The Acolytes Feel Sleepy’, any talent they have is still very raw.

There are glimpses of goodness found within this EP and sonically, it’s a vast improvement over Gniyrg Gnaarg’s previous recording (2010’s ‘Mother Sun’).  Overall, though, at this early stage of their musical career, these guys just don’t have the tightness that’s necessary to make their sounds work over a long period.

September 2012