By Jordan Mooney.
Before we begin here, I feel it’s only write to point out that Cat on the Wall is not, and likely never will be, a metal ‘zine. We enjoy a bit of heavy music, certainly, but the metal scene is simply not where we’re founded or where we’re most comfortable. I had a phase, like many teenagers, that ultimately died down…
Indeed, today, to my knowledge, is the first time a metal band has strolled onto the scene and sat down. There’s a bit of blood on the carpet, but we’ll excuse it for now.
Today’s band are Grenouer, a Russian outfit whom have had a more varied history in twenty years than most bands could hope for in a forty year career. Starting off as a death metal group, they gained a lot of attention and notoriety during the late 1990s, most of the publicity, bizarrely enough, being headed by the Russian Orthodox church…which in itself is somewhat strange, as Genouer have rarely shown many of the more questionable traits of this genre of music. With banned concerts, blacklists, it’s pretty clear the group were largely a victim of generalisation – they were simply grouped with a genre they were not particularly a representation of.
Over the years, Grenouer have matured in some ways, and, perhaps, lightened up in others. Their style has slowly veered to a more relaxed, but in no way less energetic, method of playing – a very comfortable alternative feel that keeps the roots of the band in place.
This constant softening, of course, has treaded on a few toes. Many people in this patch of the market can’t stand change, unfortunately, which I feel is a touch unfair.
Grenouer are evidently one of those bands who simply don’t want to be typecast with a single sound, and prefer dipping and diving as to their creative urge. I think this is how many bands should try to work, as long as, of course, they provide transitions, a certain hint of their original style. Grenouer have done exactly that – it’s been a relatively smooth period.
One thing that becomes instantly clear is this album is very clean. It’s incredibly smooth running, and brings more to mind ideas of The British Wave of Heavy Metal than it does a Russian ex-death-metal group. The sound truly isn’t a headache inducing sort of aesthetic.
With some fairly catchy riffs that really do begin to work on you after a while, smooth and unintrusive, light and even rather enthralling vocals, it’s a really rather lovely record – but, and this is the true bug-bear of the metal scene – everybody has different ideas of how a metal record should sound. Some will probably hate it. There’s no middle ground, particularly when it comes to how an album is mixed or the band’s usual material.
I think rather than focusing on how the music is channelled and made up we should focus on what we have here.
We evidently have some very talented people working simultaneously to produce a really luxurious, pleasant piece of work. The guitars are well played in a series of riffs and rhythms that are all polished up to a perfect shine , the vocals well performed in a lovely mid-range melodic, the drums keep our beat and timing – what more does one really need?
It all feels very large scale. It feels like an epic, like something put together by a pack of people going on a gigantic journey – it all feels very triumphant, which, I think for a band that has changed and grown so much in the way of Grenouer, is rather on the money.
This isn’t an album of high art, but it’s evidently made by people who know what they’re doing. And do it very, very nicely indeed.
I can’t say it’ll be 100% what our usual readership are looking for, but it’s the first metal record I’ve properly enjoyed in months. I wholeheartedly accept it with open arms, and I think a fair few of people who are willing to give it a try in the first place will probably rather like it, too.
We sat down with Andrey Ind, the vocalist of the band, to answer a few questions about their constantly changing styles and the ideals that go into a group like Grenouer.
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall! Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Andrey Ind: Good morning! A pleasure to meet you! I am Andrey Ind, lead singer and frontman of GRENOUER from Saint Petersburg, Russia. GRENOUER is a worldwide sort of band that remains a dark horse for the masses – for better or worse!
COTW: You’ve had quite the sturdy career – since your debut release in 1997, in fact, you’ve changed sound and style countless times from your death metal roots. What brought on such big changes over the length of your existence as GRENOUER?
AI: In late autumn 1996, after we recorded our debut album, Border of Misty Times, as early as travelling home from the studio in Moscow, we felt an urge to change.
GRENOUER, having produced death metal since 1992, closely observed development of the genre from other groups, many of whom were beginning to change: Carcass evolved from the spooky Reek of Putrefaction to the rolling Swansong. Napalm Death were exploring industrial, Hypocrisy switched to slower, atmospheric sound. Disharmonic Orchestra became a freaky alternative act..! Of course, lots of bands proceeded playing your classic, brutal sort of music, but it became more and more obvious that the genre was extending its borders and crossing over into others, and we were eager to be a part of such renewal.
The follow-up album, Gravehead, turned out just a medley of different ideas – we suspended any sort of change until our fourth release. By the next decade, we had become skilled and experienced enough to bring in some cardinal changes.
It took us a while, and a few line up changes, but eventually we arrived to the current incarnation of Grenouer – something that really stirs our blood, and hopefully, the blood of our listeners.
COTW: Your latest, seventh, album, ‘Blood on the Face’, seems to veer more towards a melodic, alternative sort of sound. It’s a pretty sharp change from your heritage – was this always your intention? Is this going to be a permanent change?
AI: The biggest change is the introduction of cleaner, more sensitive lead vocals, while heavy guitars and arrangements have stayed in place from our sixth release, Lifelong Days. An alternative sort of sound was definitely our goal, but the most important and rather complex task was composing some decent songs! Permanent change is a great thing, but holding on to individuality means making it comprehensible to various listeners. The fact that more and more people are enjoying Grenouer, even if they don’t care much about metal scene, rather speaks for itself!
COTW: You’ve always carried a fair bit of controversy, particularly in your younger years. In fact, we read you were targeted by the Orthodox Church in your home country of Russia, along with several other death metal groups. Do you think, had you started up today as a death metal group, this problem would still exist?
AI: We were targeted for nothing more than a gig poster with pentagrams! It didn’t actually imply any proceedings. Now, the Russian Orthodox Christian Church is making a bargain with mainstream politics in order to win power – Which means that musicians have to be careful, and study what’s declared as a criminal offence. All the same, I highly doubt that pentagrams on posters interest authorities today!
You need to check beforehand where you won’t get arrested, for instance, for burning a bible. Since the Orthodox Church is aspiring to solidify their own position, they’ll always be watching proceedings for anything they declare as provocative.
COTW: Do you think the prejudice towards death metal is particularly fair?
AI: Absolutely not! For instance, I assume that Glen Benton (Deicide) is a very amiable and intelligent person. The majority of people I have met within metal scene are really nice people with high moral principles. All the same, our experience with The Metal Den records* trying to release this album prove there’s also a lot of charlatans..!
COTW: Tell us about your latest release, ‘Blood on the Face’. What would you describe it, personally, as consisting of?
AI: Blood on the Face is certainly a new epoch for GRENOUER. It’s a diamond in the rough! Eleven songs combine metal, rock and pop music, an ‘adult-oriented metal mix’ with a very modern sort of style. I think that backpacking the long road of creativity has been worthwhile.
COTW: How was it producing an album so different to your back catalogue? Did you find it easier, or did it take a bit more work?
AI: At first, the record seemed a mere extension of our EP, Computer Crime, yet its full-length sequel turned into a totally different oeuvre. Three of five songs were rearranged and rerecorded, suplemented with five new songs plus a cover of All in the Suit That You Wear, by Stone Temple Pilots. The schedule was tight (three summer months!) and we didn’t know what exactly to expect from the new producer (Giuseppe Bassi aka Dualized) but there was anticipation that the band was travelling down the right road. Magic, drive, vibe, electricity…all were in the air; it was fascinating!
COTW: We’ve noticed you’ve got some pretty impressive music videos! Do you think music videos are still an important part of being a band in the age of social networking?
AI: Three music videos, produced with different directors, are out now – and two more are in production! It’s meticulous work but if we make five music videos for the album then we definitely find them important! Many new bands have a different outlook, reckoning that ‘Likes’ are a sufficient substitute for good music. We’re not worried – time will place everything in context. ‘Likes’ have nothing to do with artistic legacy.
COTW: And what are your plans for the future?
AI: Our promotional campaign (and the roundabout activity) is in full swing and we are already working on new tracks. There’s also playing gigs, of course. We’re simultaneously preparing to appear at a 3-day event – PPM Fest in Belgium in April 2014 – together with My Dying Bride, Therion, In Extremo, Pagan’s Min, Rage, Royal Hunt, Pain… and many more. That’s going to be a terrific festival!
COTW: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us, Andrey – we look forward to hearing from you again very soon!
AI: Thanks a lot for your questions, and most of all, your support! May the music dwell in your heart and best of luck to you in your future. Perhaps we’ll meet you on tour someday..!
*The Metal Den Records, from what I can attain, seemingly finding it quite ample to split an album up into several incomprehensible singles, set back release days continuously and take a shot at some absolutely ridiculous promotional activity. Make of that what you will.
And so, there we are. If you fancy a nice bit of heavy music that’s capable of bring you back to the good old days, give this CD a spin. If you’re still not convinced, have a few really, really lovely, luxurious, silky music videos:
Blood on the Face was released by Mausoleum records on May the 3rd 2013 in Europe, then reaching North America on July the 9th. It’s available at all competent music retailers.
If you, like your intrepid narrator, do not have a music retailer anymore, let alone a competent one, it’s available for purchase through the label or all over your usual internet retailers. http://www.music-avenue.net/mausoleum/