Deciding to re-track an album is not a decision to take lightly. Both expensive and time consuming, it usually suggests a sea-change in the way a band writes and records, and such was the case with The Gravity Guild who, whilst recording their follow up EP, discovered that they had evolved as a unit and thus made the astonishing decision to re-write the past. Having never heard the original effort, comparisons are not possible, but what we can tell you is that ‘I’ is a very strong effort indeed, comprising soulful vocals, heavy guitars and powerful melodic hooks that few bands seem interested in unleashing these days. While more metal orientated readers of this site may find the effort rather on the lighter side, those with an interest in heavy rock and alternative will find plenty to admire in an album that has been described, with some justification, as “what you would get if you crossed Audioslave with Sevendust”.
Opening tracks ‘Collide’ and ‘Slo’ do much to cover the range of The Gravity Guild. The former is a slice of melodic heavy rock that buzzes and fizzes with energy, whilst the latter is a more complex piece of song-writing which sees the band introducing complex rhythms in the vein of latter-day Soundgarden (think ‘Superunknown’ rather than ‘louder than love’) and vocalist Colin Simson adopting a more soulful posture that is a mixture of Chris Cornell, Steven Tyler and Ed Kowalczyk, all neatly wrapped up in the writhing riffs and churning bass of jay Way (who also handled, with great aplomb, the production duties. ‘2 birds, 0 stones’, despite its amusingly whimsical title, is an atmospheric piece that sucks you in with its meandering, psychedelic opening before Jay steps in with an almighty beast of a riff that is pure Audioslave, giving Colin the perfect opportunity to unleash his full, and not inconsiderable, range as a singer, from the subtle verse to the full on, burning chorus.
Demonstrating, once more, the multi-faceted approach the band take to song writing, ‘the game’ moves between subtle passages and harder guitar rock, recalling Live via ‘Secret Samadhi’ crossbred with Incubus at their most soulful. It’s a very busy mix the band deal with, there’s always a lot going on in the background, and even as you focus on the vocals there are keyboard, guitar and percussive flourishes that only start to become apparent after several listens, while Colin moves from crooner to strutting rock frontman with consummate ease. ‘Albert the Asteroid’ is but a simple spacey segue that leads into the blistering ‘Issues of trust’ that juxtaposes Colin’s more relaxed vocal approach with riffs of real power. Again, it is the restraint the band exercise that serves to keep the melodic sensibilities firmly in check whilst the power of the riffs keeps the track firmly in the heavy category. ‘Step outside’ wastes no time in maintaining the heavier feel of the previous song, although the minor-key vocals and breathier riffs take the song in an Alice In Chains direction, the layered vocals a nod to the harmonies of Stayley and Cantrell, whilst the Eastern-influenced riffs sit comfortably between Live’s experimental ‘V’ album and AIC’s ‘Facelift’ at its most restrained. ‘Little pill’ is even more in the vein of Alice in Chains, the riff dangerously close to ‘God Smack’ from dirt, although the verse darts off in a completely different direction, the off-kilter guitars jarring against the rhythm and keeping the listener on their toes.
Heading into the last third of the album we come up against ‘time and again’, a slower number that is soaked in stale smoke and spilled whiskey, the riffs grinding against the half-time percussion, the feel once again very much that of Alice in Chains, much more so than the earlier songs on the album. It’s a great track, easily referencing the dark sound of Seattle circa-1992, but with the band’s own spin on proceedings, meaning that this is far from just being a carbon copy of what has gone before, and it’s clear that The Gravity Guild have absorbed far more than just the influence of grunge when developing the record. ‘Subordinate’ sees the band head back into the soul-laden grooves of the first part of the record, slipping out of the darkened vale the previous tracks had drawn the listener into and back out into the light via a springy riff and off-kilter drums. ‘So long’ kicks off with a syncopated drum beat and awkward riff that demonstrates the levels of skill the band can employ at will, the result sounding remarkably like a cross between Incubus, Live and Tool – a confusing proposition and a description I never imagined myself writing! Final track ‘delusional’ closes the album on a moody note that sits between Deftones, Alice in chains and Pearl Jam, the spacious verses giving way to grinding choruses of real power.
Not having heard the original album, it’s impossible to say what leaps The Gravity Guild have made in re-working their debut album, but ‘I’ itself is a clever, well-written album that touches on any number of alt-rock milestones whilst maintaining its own sense of identity. Jay Way is clearly a talented individual, whilst Colin Simson’s vocals shine throughout, offering depth, expression and range, and Both Abel Vallejo and Sander Owen demonstrate the ability to be satisfyingly adventurous around the drum kit when it is required. In short, The Gravity Guild have crafted an alt rock album that looks both backward and forward in equal measure. Given how few people operate within the genre (and fewer still with such passion and power) it will undoubtedly thrill all those who have worn their AiC records into the ground, whilst offering something new to those who missed the alt-explosion of the nineties entirely. A hugely successful effort from a band who show great potential.