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Near Grey is a fascinating band to say the least. An instrumental ensemble hailing from Montreal, Quebec their music contains elements of sludge and doom metal, but I certainly wouldn’t classify them as a metal band. They’re often described as post-metal, although I believe that they draw on heavier sounds prevalent in metal to forge an atmospheric, post-modern soundscape. Their music is very contemplative; it would make the perfect score to a film. It’s not really something you would “rock-out” to. It’s art, like a wordless interpretation of existentialism. Even compared against other forms of post-metal, Near Grey is like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

Yage consists of three compositions, each of them around twenty minutes long! The first track, “Darien Gap”, opens with a prolonged wall of distortion with subtle nuances floating in the background. It’s an interesting wash of sound that almost forces you into a meditative state, and you start to wonder if you’re hearing sounds that are actually there. This extended ocean of fuzz slowly gives way to the rhythm, but not until close to the six-minute mark! Once it does kick in though, the rhythm marches steadily forward like a chain of mastodon as a haunting melody glides above it. It climaxes and mellows before it peaks again with an intense moment of thrash – the drums are epic. It falls back into an exotic melody, as if nothing had happened, and returns to a bittersweet yet somehow uplifting tone before it’s abrupt end.

“Katun Cycle” begins with drums curiously enough, leading in with phrasing that reminds me of the shoegazer ilk, before their hallmark dramatic melody slams down once again. I prefer this track to the previous one mostly because it gets to the point much quicker than “Darien Gap” does. This is a very melodic number (at least for the first three quarters) and it’s much more digestible. That being said, Near Grey can’t help but submit to a little self-indulgence towards the end.

“Desquamation” has many cool musical parts, perhaps some of most interesting sounds on the album are in this song. Unfortunately it’s my least favorite of the three compositions when it comes to flow. It starts of with very catchy broken chord riff overtop of a mid-paced beat, yet it seems incomplete. In fact it’s the only time that I miss vocals in any of their music. The section that follows it seems disjointed and unrelated to the opening sequence, and it seems to stall the composition before it really gets into its groove. That being said, the melodies present are incredibly dramatic and exemplify the vastness of their sound. The climactic melody bleeds nicely into a grungy rhythm before the fading outro takes over.

Although I personally prefer Near Grey’s previous album “The Herschel Central Peak”, I still enjoyed what they've accomplished with Yage. It’s a gutsy move to release an album of only three twenty-minute tracks, but their endeavors have paid off. Also the title is fitting (look up ayahuasca). Their music is both vastly complex and minimal at the same time, making this release more worthy of a dissertation than a mere review. If you enjoy listening to progressive/psychedelic rock, soundtracks or contemporary classical compositions then you owe it to yourself to explore the work of Near Grey.

Richard Leggatt, HMS

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