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View Full Version : Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist (2009)


Natrlhi
06-18-2009, 07:33 AM
The long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s critically-acclaimed “Metridium Fields” is finally here, and what a follow-up it has turned out to be.

The band had undergone a few changes since their previous album, the most ostensible being the divorce of guitarists / vocalists Aaron Gregory and Aurielle Zeitler. With Aurielle’s departure, a large chunk of Giant Squid’s signature sound had left the band.

Luckily, her pseudo-replacement, Jackie Perez Gratz (founding member of Grayceon, and also a member of Amber Asylum) provides a whole new twist to an already progressive doom metal sound. Jackie plays cello and sings, and although Aurielle did play both guitar and keyboards as well, those parts did not serve as a very basis for the music the way Jackie's often do in the new version of Giant Squid. The strong cello parts fold into the sound of the guitars and drums quite seamlessly (as they do in Grayceon), and the result is something that I doubt anyone has ever heard before.

The music is sometimes crushing, sometimes quite melancholy, but always intense and interesting. This album also includes several additional instruments and guest appearances, including flute, oboe (played by Jackie’s sister Cat Gratz), violin (played by Kris Force of Amber Asylum), beautiful backing vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering), and also some ear-piercing screams from the inimitable Karyn Crisis (a friend of the band, who was instrumental in their originally being signed by The End Records).

All of these myriad pieces are melded together with great care and skill by the band – Aaron Gregory in particular, who writes and arranges most of the music – to create one of the best albums of 2009 (so far!).

Highlights:
Throwing a Donner Party at Sea
Dead Man Slough
Blue Linckia
Panthalassa

Nat :horns:

DethMaiden
06-18-2009, 10:29 AM
This is on my "to-hear" list, and near the top. I loved Metridium Field.

Natrlhi
06-18-2009, 12:59 PM
This is on my "to-hear" list, and near the top. I loved Metridium Field.

Aw, son - you are in for a real treat.

Think "Metridium Fields", but way better. :rocker:

ADD
06-18-2009, 01:39 PM
I dunno I only listened to it once, couldn't remember what I had just heard, haven't put it on again. I used to love listening to Metridium Fields in high school when I was studying or doing homework, especially the title song and "Summit".

Natrlhi
06-26-2009, 07:50 AM
I dunno I only listened to it once, couldn't remember what I had just heard, haven't put it on again. I used to love listening to Metridium Fields in high school when I was studying or doing homework, especially the title song and "Summit".

"Summit" might just be my favorite Giant Squid song. But seriously, dude...you really have to give this album another shot. Repeated listening is a must. It is just so good. All the guest instrumentation really enriches the whole thing...plus, it is a theme album of sorts (which I normally don't find all that interesting, but still). The song "Throwing a Donner Party at Sea" is my favorite - it is actually a reboot of an old song of theirs from the Monster in the Creek EP, but redone with the current lineup. The trumpets are cool as hell, and the guest vocals from Karyn Crisis are just insane. This is probably the next closest song to being their best (and possibly "Neonate" qualifies as well).

Lovin' the Squid,
Nat :horns:

ADD
06-27-2009, 02:53 AM
"Summit" might just be my favorite Giant Squid song. But seriously, dude...you really have to give this album another shot. Repeated listening is a must. It is just so good. All the guest instrumentation really enriches the whole thing...plus, it is a theme album of sorts (which I normally don't find all that interesting, but still). The song "Throwing a Donner Party at Sea" is my favorite - it is actually a reboot of an old song of theirs from the Monster in the Creek EP, but redone with the current lineup. The trumpets are cool as hell, and the guest vocals from Karyn Crisis are just insane. This is probably the next closest song to being their best (and possibly "Neonate" qualifies as well).

Lovin' the Squid,
Nat :horns:
Word man my computer broke though so i wont hear this one again for days. i believe that its good though

Natrlhi
08-10-2009, 07:54 PM
Time for another shameless bump. :D

I saw these cats with Grayceon last Saturday night, and they fucking tore the place apart. The highlight of the set was definitely "Throwing a Donner Party at Sea" (no surprise there). Their whole set (posted elsewhere) was absolutely awesome, and what a nice bunch of people to boot. Stellar show - you NEED to see these guys live before you die (or at least buy this album, for fuck's sake).

Nat :horns:

P.S. - Sorry about the f-bombs - I do that when I get really passionate about the subject. :D

DethMaiden
08-19-2009, 11:40 AM
This one didn't really do it for me. The stuff came off much better live, and there's no memorable hooks and riffs like on Metridium Field, and I think the odd instrumentation was used better on that album too. It's a pleasant little album but it didn't rock my world.

Natrlhi
08-19-2009, 11:46 AM
This one didn't really do it for me. The stuff came off much better live, and there's no memorable hooks and riffs like on Metridium Field, and I think the odd instrumentation was used better on that album too. It's a pleasant little album but it didn't rock my world.

My first thought: YOU BITE YOUR FUCKING TONGUE, HEATHEN SCUM!!! :grrr:

My second thought: You are just flat out wrong, bro. Or maybe deaf. Or both.

My third (probably closest to being correct) thought: This album took time for me as well (and I was already a huge Squid fan). Perhaps it will grow on you as it did me. I think it will honestly be in my top five this year (top ten for sure), but I didn't think so at first. Maybe give it a couple more spins before you give up on it...? :snivel: :D

Nat :horns:

DethMaiden
08-19-2009, 11:49 AM
My first thought: YOU BITE YOUR FUCKING TONGUE, HEATHEN SCUM!!! :grrr:

My second thought: You are just flat out wrong, bro. Or maybe deaf. Or both.

My third (probably closest to being correct) thought: This album took time for me as well (and I was already a huge Squid fan). Perhaps it will grow on you as it did me. I think it will honestly be in my top five this year (top ten for sure), but I didn't think so at first. Maybe give it a couple more spins before you give up on it...? :snivel: :D

Nat :horns:

I'll put it on a few more times. I mean, I have to, I own it and I need to listen to music every waking moment of my life or I won't be happy. :D But yeah, right now I kinda feel like "Oh, that just happened" when the album ends. "Throwing a Donner Party at Sea (Physeter Catodon)" would be the highlight, but even that gets stomped all over by the likes of Neonate, Ampullae of Lorenzini, Summit, and Metridium Field, and its furthermore disappointing that they wrote that song before Metridium Field, meaning that the best song on the new record is an old song. :(

Natrlhi
09-02-2009, 10:27 AM
I'll put it on a few more times.
Do.

"Throwing a Donner Party at Sea (Physeter Catodon)" would be the highlight,
Correct! :D

but even that gets stomped all over by the likes of Neonate, Ampullae of Lorenzini, Summit, and Metridium Field
The four best songs from Metridium Fields (and in the right order, too).

its furthermore disappointing that they wrote that song before Metridium Field, meaning that the best song on the new record is an old song. :(
It's an old song, but it kicks so much more ass now. The thing is, they had a whole different sound when the song was first written, and the original version (which is on the "Monster in the Creek" EP) has a lot of keyboards and other funky stuff in it. It's actually a cool song as well, but the fact that they dusted off an old favorite and gave it a whole new, awesome facelift is actually a testament to the strength of the song, IMO.

Last but not least, here is my list of tracks from most favorite to least, just to maybe give you some ideas on where best to focus as you listen some more:

Throwing a Donner Party at Sea - Crushing. Bombastic. Awesome.
Blue Linckia - Epic. Dark and personal (read the lyrics).
Dead Man Slough - Even darker, almost to the point of being morbidly funny (REALLY read the lyrics!).
Panthalassa - Also crushing. Very heavy and expansive, like the ancient world-covering omni-ocean after which the song is named...
La Brea Tar Pits - Took some repeated listening, but this one is good (even better live).
Sevengill - The best "slow song" on the album - the guest instrumentation & vocals are added to great effect here, IMHO.
Emerald Bay - Best vocals on the album - this song is awesome, and also deep (one of several about suicide). Nice oboe (played by Jackie's sister).
Rubicon Wall - This is another suicide song - it's about the album's lead character (which is based on the lead character in Aaron's as-yet-unpublished graphic novel) throwing himself off the edge of the abyss. Tragic.



Sutterville - Not bad, but I sometimes skip it - the story line is interesting (and true).
Mormon Island - I usually skip this one - it does have some pretty haunting vocals, though...

DethMaiden
09-02-2009, 11:12 AM
Yeah, I'm finishing up another listen...this album just isn't that good, man. :snivel:

Natrlhi
09-02-2009, 11:39 AM
Yeah, I'm finishing up another listen...this album just isn't that good, man. :snivel:

Hmmm. A very unexpected reaction. What do you not like? Or what do you feel is missing that you found to be so compelling on Metridium Fields?

DethMaiden
09-02-2009, 11:48 AM
Hmmm. A very unexpected reaction. What do you not like? Or what do you feel is missing that you found to be so compelling on Metridium Fields?

Not one song outside of "Throwing a Donner Party at Sea" really grabs your attention. It's just pleasant music that drifts in and then drifts out, and I think the Pink Floyd influence that drove a lot of the slow sections of Metridium Fields has been all but abandoned. I love what they did with the whale-song sax in the title track of that album, for example, and it doesn't overstay its welcome, but this album...it just doesn't MAKE me want to hear it. It just sort of happens.

Natrlhi
09-02-2009, 12:38 PM
Fair enough. I'll admit, it's not exactly "Gin" (which grabs you by the balls and shakes you around violently from the very start).

I think that what compels me to listen to "The Ichthyologist" more than you is that I loved "Metridium Fields" so much that, I was extremely pumped its release months before it came out - I pre-ordered it so soon after the announcement was made that I got the 22nd numbered copy out of 1,000 that were pressed - and as soon as I got my hands on it, I dissected all the lyrics to the songs and the meanings behind the titles and everything immediately.

For example, did you know that every genus and species in the song titles has a direct relationship with the subject of each song? Sutterville was a real place, and the story of what happened there (a cholera epidemic that killed hundreds of people - the bodies were buried in mass graves) is told in the song. So was Mormon Island - it's an old gold-mining town that was flooded by the Folsom Dam project. Dead Man Slough is also a real place - I don't know if there are bodies in it, but the story told in the song is awesomely grim even if it is fictional (which I assume it is). The song Blue Linckia uses the metaphor of the subject starfish (which is huge, by the way - like 10" to 12" across) growing back its limbs to convey what the character in the story is saying, "If you were to sever my arm / I would grow one more / As I regenerate I'll still have another four" - in other words, hurt me if you want - I'll bounce back - fuck you very much (nice!).

Once I found out what all these songs were about, similarly to what happened with you and "Gin", my interest in the album went up exponentially. I was hooked, and now more than ever - after literally hundreds of listens, I just know the songs so well that I live them out every time I play the album. There is some really good stuff on this album, but maybe you have to really want to look hard enough to find it all - or maybe it's just a matter of taste. I just thought that anybody who loved Metridium Fields would love this even more, because I have to say, the songwriting is even better here than on Fields. No, seriously - it really is.

Here are some of the hidden (?) gems that compel me to listen - and keep listening:

Panthalassa - the last ninety seconds of the song just KILL (distortion, much?) - and check out the high note from Jackie at the end!
Dead Man Slough - banjo, extremely dark lyrics "The letters he wrote you / Were left in plain view / I recited them aloud as I was running him through"...poetry!
Donner Party - trumpets, Karyn Crisis screaming, rage, people getting eaten by sharks...hello!?! :D
Sevengill - 4:45 through to the end...the excellent juxtaposition of Anneke van Giersbergen's pretty vocals against Aaron's angst-filled bellows - VERY nice!
Blue Linckia - from 4:00 to the end, with the trumpets and keyboards that come in at around 5:30 - this is probably the highlight of the entire album for me...I fucking DEFY you to not bang your head during this part! Seriously. Try it. You can't do it. :rocker::rocker::rocker:

There's just so much to love when you dig into this album - but to each his own, I guess.

Nat :horns:

DethMaiden
09-02-2009, 01:10 PM
Fair enough. I'll admit, it's not exactly "Gin" (which grabs you by the balls and shakes you around violently from the very start).

I think that what compels me to listen to "The Ichthyologist" more than you is that I loved "Metridium Fields" so much that, I was extremely pumped its release months before it came out - I pre-ordered it so soon after the announcement was made that I got the 22nd numbered copy out of 1,000 that were pressed - and as soon as I got my hands on it, I dissected all the lyrics to the songs and the meanings behind the titles and everything immediately.

For example, did you know that every genus and species in the song titles has a direct relationship with the subject of each song? Sutterville was a real place, and the story of what happened there (a cholera epidemic that killed hundreds of people - the bodies were buried in mass graves) is told in the song. So was Mormon Island - it's an old gold-mining town that was flooded by the Folsom Dam project. Dead Man Slough is also a real place - I don't know if there are bodies in it, but the story told in the song is awesomely grim even if it is fictional (which I assume it is). The song Blue Linckia uses the metaphor of the subject starfish (which is huge, by the way - like 10" to 12" across) growing back its limbs to convey what the character in the story is saying, "If you were to sever my arm / I would grow one more / As I regenerate I'll still have another four" - in other words, hurt me if you want - I'll bounce back - fuck you very much (nice!).

Once I found out what all these songs were about, similarly to what happened with you and "Gin", my interest in the album went up exponentially. I was hooked, and now more than ever - after literally hundreds of listens, I just know the songs so well that I live them out every time I play the album. There is some really good stuff on this album, but maybe you have to really want to look hard enough to find it all - or maybe it's just a matter of taste. I just thought that anybody who loved Metridium Fields would love this even more, because I have to say, the songwriting is even better here than on Fields. No, seriously - it really is.

Here are some of the hidden (?) gems that compel me to listen - and keep listening:

Panthalassa - the last ninety seconds of the song just KILL (distortion, much?) - and check out the high note from Jackie at the end!
Dead Man Slough - banjo, extremely dark lyrics "The letters he wrote you / Were left in plain view / I recited them aloud as I was running him through"...poetry!
Donner Party - trumpets, Karyn Crisis screaming, rage, people getting eaten by sharks...hello!?! :D
Sevengill - 4:45 through to the end...the excellent juxtaposition of Anneke van Giersbergen's pretty vocals against Aaron's angst-filled bellows - VERY nice!
Blue Linckia - from 4:00 to the end, with the trumpets and keyboards that come in at around 5:30 - this is probably the highlight of the entire album for me...I fucking DEFY you to not bang your head during this part! Seriously. Try it. You can't do it. :rocker::rocker::rocker:

There's just so much to love when you dig into this album - but to each his own, I guess.

Nat :horns:

You're definitely right in terms of the deepness but I guess it's just different things that grab different people. I think my x-factor reasons for loving Gin that have nothing to do with the music have just as much of an effect on my ranking it at #1 as the music itself. And you're clearly way more privy to the shit on this album than I am, which naturally enhances enjoyment.

I just like Hemingway and fucking better than the ocean I guess. ;)

Natrlhi
09-02-2009, 07:43 PM
You're definitely right in terms of the deepness but I guess it's just different things that grab different people. I think my x-factor reasons for loving Gin that have nothing to do with the music have just as much of an effect on my ranking it at #1 as the music itself. And you're clearly way more privy to the shit on this album than I am, which naturally enhances enjoyment.

I just like Hemingway and violent fucking better than the ocean I guess. ;)

:lol: Fixed. :rocker:

DethMaiden
09-03-2009, 04:22 AM
:lol: Fixed. :rocker:

:horns:

DethMaiden
09-03-2009, 06:29 AM
And I think a big reason Gin grabbed me lyrically and conceptually the way it did was I really really liked the music in the first place. I'm a fan of albums that grow on you, but there has to be some immediate love. I'm obviously not going to totally change by opinion of The Ichthyologist by learning more about the concept. That kind of cheapens the fact that at any album's heart, it's music, and the music has to grab you before the other stuff can fall into place.

Glad you like it though, they're a band who truly deserves support. I don't regret buying it and I think they'll make good stuff in the future, and their live show was fantastic. :horns: