Grails, Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6

Jon Wiederhorn

By Jon Wiederhorn

on 10.04.13 in Reviews

The ongoing Black Tar Prophecies sessions from Portland, Oregon, instrumental post-rockers Grails function like deep-space side ventures from their normal output. The first three prophecies came after the hypnotic, but monochromatic buzz of their second full-length album, 2004′s Redlight. The songs were culled from collaborations and rarities, and displayed the band working with elements of Krautrock, dub, ambient, psychedelia and classical.

Spanning three years but holding together as a single release

The second batch, Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6, matches, and possibly exceeds, the potency of both the first Black Tar releases and their 2008 high-water mark LP Doomsdayer’s Holiday. The Vol. 4 tracks are from a 2010 EP, Vol. 5 from a split with Pharaoh Overlord and Vol. 6 is new and previously unreleased. Even though they span three years, the music holds together as if intended for a single release: From the wavering apocalyptic hum, ’80s videogame sound effects and bluesy electric guitar of “Wake Up Drill II,” the nightmarish samples and reverberating feedback of “New Drug II,” and the soft, steady beat, classical piano, strings and minor key bass melody of “A Mansion Has Many Rooms,” the collection has a fearlessly wide-ranging diversity that nonetheless folds into the anything-goes atmosphere Grails have cultivated through their career. Whether they are recalling early Pink Floyd, Can, Neu!, White Room-era KLF, Goblin, King Crimson and Guru Guru, or spaghetti westerns, Grails remain themselves, their only goals to enlighten themselves and their listeners.