THE GRAND ASTORIA - From The Great Beyond
Where should I start with The Grand Astoria from Saint Petersburg? The band was founded in 2009, and since then has released six longplayers and countless EPs, singles, splits etc. On their Bandcamp page alone, you can purchase nearly thirty different outputs. Their newest is From The Great Beyond, which at a little over half an hour can be considered either a short longplayer or a long EP.
The Grand Astoria play psychedelic fuzz rock which has always been open to other genres, like heavy metal, stoner, progressive rock and possibly much more. They also often work with a lot of guest musicians, which also adds timbre and flair to their music. On this new album, we most notably hear iamthemorning’s Gleb Kolyadin whose stellar reputation is no longer confined to Russia alone.
From The Great Beyond starts with its five minute long title track. First you hear an acoustic guitar (and there is no electric guitar on this piece), then the band adds trippy synth textures before the conjuring chorus follows. The vocals are hoarse and melodic, making this some kind of occult masterpiece in the vein of Black Widow’s Come To The Sabbat, in a way that it shows that you don’t need to be super-heavy to sound truly ominous. The song’s final section comes with a flute part that underlines the seventies influence. Up next is the three minute short Wasteland, a heavy rocking song with a repetitive "hey hey hey, hey hey hey yo" chorus that is meant to be catchy but ultimately lack the necessary spark to make it work. Nyanatiloka is at ten minutes the longest track, and starts as another heavy rock song with stoner touch and high vocals. The first half of the song continues like that, but the second one sees to band return to their psychedelic roots where they jam joyfully until the end of the track, proving once and for all that their psyche rock side is their forte.
Us Against The World is at eight and a half minutes another long track, and just like the preceding piece, it starts again like a high octane rocker before unpacking its charm only later on. The final section is a perfect exercise in eighties speed metal, with the high vocals reminding of a young Alan Tecchio (Hades, Watchtower...). Anyhow is like the opener a more acoustic minded track, at four and a half minutes rather concise, and taking advantage of Gleb Kolyadin’s great piano playing that sounds like coming straight from a Western saloon. The banjo part even underlines this impression. This is great fun and coming unexpectedly from a Russian band. The album ends with the two-minute short Ten Years Anniversary Riff, which is just that.
I prefer to think of From The Great Beyond as being a great and long EP, because as a full-length album, it is just too short and stylistically sometimes too much all over the place. This might be a flaw in a longplayer, but an EP should be something where artists can be more creative. More than once I felt reminded of Norwegian psychedelic kings Motorpsycho, so if you like them, you will also be in good hands with The Grand Astoria. If you are not yet familiar with these rocking Russians, you still have a lot to discover.