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GRIOT: Elisabeth

Elisabeth is my first encounter with GRIOT, a French/Portuguese/multi-national progressive/art/alt rock outfit. However, the manner in which its album art both mirrors and contradicts its predecessor, Gerald, immediately captured my imagination. As you may have guessed, the pair act as concept pieces, one recounting the journey ofGeraldfrom his days as a youngster through to adulthood, while, as could be expected, Elisabeth turns a similar light on a different main character as it portrays the upbringing of Elisabeth and her life at The Great City. In terms of story, things are seldom as simple as they seem, with a real depth and some quite challenging moments covered as life, love, relationships, aspirations and loss are met head on. In itself the results are quite an achievement and yet, it’s once combined with daringly diverse diversions from right across the prog and rock spectrums that this album truly hints at the scope GRIOT are hoping to reveal. So much so, that there is also an accompanying five chapter book that digs deeper into the album’s storyline, which can be used as a companion piece while listening.

Formed round the duo of João Pascoal (bass, electric guitar, programming) and Sérgio Ferreira (drums, percussion, programming), the cast list that expands this album through the use of instruments such as violincello, clarinet, saxophone, keyboards and guitar is extensive indeed, although special mention really must go to singer Maria Branco, who takes us on Elisabeth’s journey in remarkably understated fashion. In places her vocal attack, while expressive, verges into the realms of uneventful and yet in many ways that actually heightens the brave contradictions between the smooth singing and the decidedly angular music. With beats roaming and tumbling, and bass lines ebbing and flowing, what could be some meandering passages retain a seriously rugged edge and when combined to this outfit’s willingness to dart into view with jaw dropping musical moments that take us into territory sometimes occupied by everyone from King Crimson and ELP to Tesseract and Karnivool, it’s some ride. Broad thinking, insidiously direct and able to change its focus at the drop of a hat, what GRIOT are carving out through the jazzy stabs of “Intertwined” is lethally effective and yet, in many ways, equally relaxing. Splash cymbals explode as who knows how many keyboard lines converge and depart from one another, proving that this band can do intricate and reserved, although even here it’s all delivered with a deadly grin.

From the big riffed “Lights Out”, which is almost full pelt progressive metal, right through to the fusion-fest and emotion of “Parted Ways”, all bases are covered and yet, I’d guess for some the sheer diversity on show might just be a little overwhelming. Those who can circumnavigate that slight obstacle will be in for a treat, although one which only truly begins to show all of its sides after you’ve experienced it more than a handful of times.

Track Listing
1. A Weak Foundation (Chapter I Pt.I)
2. Lights Out (Chapter I Pt.II)
3. Atonement (Chapter II Pt.I)
4. Retrospection (Chapter II Pt.II)
5. Intertwined (Chapter III Pt.I)
6. Unearthing the Past (Chapter III Pt.II)
7. Parted Ways (Chapter IV Pt.I)
8. Making Amends (Chapter IV Pt.II)
9. The Leap (Chapter V Pt.I)
10. Introspection (Chapter V Pt.II)

Added: August 10th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: GRIOT on facebook
Hits: 998
Language: english

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