Gravehaven - Calico (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Calico (2008)


What does one do with a record that's technically excellent, yet lacks any sort of emotional attachment? Quite a bucket of syrup, isn't it? These guys in Gravehaven certainly know what they're doing -- progressive rock in the vein of the Mars Volta, replete with similar guitar noodling, busy drum fills and extremely rangy vocals.

The musicianship on Calico is quite impressive, but the whole record is so aloof to me. I've tried and tried to forge an attachment to it, and I just can't. The hooks aren't strong enough (and sometimes, completely missing), and the guitar noodling, as proficient as it might be, comes off as little more than musical masturbation on the part of the player. I mean hey, that's great, you can noodle that fast. But how about playing something I'll actually remember once it's over?

The vocals aren't much better, either. It's obvious that vocalist Benjamin Grenville has some pipes, but his style -- high-pitched, raw and grandiose -- is a little too modern rock-ish for my tastes. When he dials it down a few notches, though, it's not bad (see the slightly atmospheric track "Lunatic"), but for most of these seven songs, he's right in your face, belting away like there's no tomorrow. Bor-ing. Ditto for his performance on "Burning Dollars"; it's just too much.

But as I mentioned, the musicianship on Calico is impressive, if a bit proggy for my tastes. Drummer Matt Arsenault is incredibly talented, and his fills are busy but not distracting, his jazzy style reminding me quite a bit of Mastodon's Brann Dailor. His work especially stands out on opener "The Mirror" as well as "Serpentine," but his fingerprints are all over this EP and it's a good thing they are, because Calico is essentially this close to being completely unlistenable.

There's just a certain 'it' factor that's missing from Calico and keeping it from being a solid release. The prog-heads in the audience might dig it, but it's certainly not going to cause any jaded old punks to exchange their Clash records for King Crimson and Genesis records. I don't wanna grow up; so what? Wanna fight about it?