Greylevel originally started as a one man band/solo project of Derek Barber. This Canadian songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist was working since 2001 on his music, when in 2005 he got help from guitarist Richard Shukin and his own wife Esther, who is a vocalist. Together they turned Greylevel into a real band and recorded their first album; Opus One in 2006. This album garnered the attention of ProgRock Records and the deal was closed soon after. When Davis (bass) and Tyler Freisen (drums) joined, Greylevel became a real performing band. Together they started working on a new album which was titled Hypostatic Union and has been released on the aforementioned label.
Personally, I did not hear the band's previous effort, so there will be no comparison or notes about progression whatsoever, so I can just concentrate on this album.
First thing that catches me is the relaxed atmosphere of the album. There are some nice outbursts of sound, but most of the time the band keeps it more mellowed, melodic and very lyrical. Like the first song already indicates, Memory Remains has the relaxed and smooth structure of a band like Porcupine Tree and even more; Blackfield. Derek sings with the same softness in his voice as Aviv Geffen (Blackfield), which suits the song perfectly. The perfect second voice of Esther gives the vocal parts something spherical. Happily, the atmosphere of the first song continues when we move forward to Achromatize, where you hear the same intensity, the guitars nicely accompanied by smooth keyboards and emotional vocals. Like I said, Greylevel has some similarities with Blackfield, but that is only in the smoother, relaxed parts, but when the guitars turn up the volume, the comparison with both bands referred to earlier does not hold ground anymore as Greylevel's guitars are totally different sounding than Steven Wilson's. The guitars have a more traditional sound, but sound perfect for the songs. Listening to Already, Not Yet you can undergo the thrill of the heaviness of the guitars. At one point smooth and slow, the next moment, metallic and powerful. In this song all pieces come together, with the two fitting voices and two great guitars kept together by the new rhythm section. This powerful song almost immediately flows into an almost acoustic piece; Buried In Time, which has some nice percussive elements and an acoustic guitar, backed by a floating bass and some keyboards. After the title track starts with a whaling guitar, the vocals go smooth again, followed by electric piano and finishing as the thirteen minute epic of the album. This Canadian band shows great diversity, and certainly needs the attention of the true progressive rock lover. Closing the album is Signals, where the modern rock influences are added to the more progressive, thus adding a band like Muse to the acts that Greylevel look up to.
Now that I have heard Hypostatic Union, I feel bad never having heard the first album from this magnificent band. The combination of the smooth and relaxed vocals, sometimes doubled with Esther's angelic voice (which I am anxious to hear song solo!) and the two different kind of guitars; nice and easy and rough and metallic, make this album one that you need to listen to more often. The more you listen, the more the songs grow.
When I started writing this review and listening to it again, I stopped writing and took the CD to my car again, played it over and over and every time I thought it was getting better. I think I am building some addiction here.......Have to find their debut.....
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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