Although they’ve been around since 2015, I’m somewhat humbled to say that The Grand Mal are a newish band to me. I’ve picked up the odd track due to the excellent APF Records who house the band, but they’ve now got my full attention. It’s hardly surprising that they bring huge riffs and a chunky sound when you look a little closer. The band are comprised of Desert Storm’s twin brothers Ryan (guitar) and Elliot Cole (drums), and Möther Cörona’s Rob Glenn (bass), Lee Cressey (guitar) and Dave-O (vocals), bringing a majestic pedigree which, as their press release states, should be enough to gain your interest.
II is unsurprisingly the band’s sophomore release, following 2019’s self-titled debut. The band made the most of their time after the debut release, managing to get several tours across the UK, as well as support slots with a range of high-quality outfits including Conjurer, Tuskar, Alunah and The Brothers Keg.
Having returned to their other bands, The Grand Mal have regrouped and now present II, which is a rampant rollercoaster, and one that’s addictive from start to finish. It’s shorter than might be expected – clocking in at 36 minutes over a 12-track ride that varies in both tempo and power – yet always allows time for the songs to breath and develop. The swirling intro “Another Replicant” gives way to “Petit Mal”, bringing the sheer velocity of the band to the fore for the first time. It’s a pounding combination of sludge, stoner, and a touch of Southern which lights the way.
As II develops, there are many storming highlights to savour. The longest song on the album is “Rule My Soul”, which at 5:42 is double the length of several tracks here. It’s also one that really expands quite organically as it progresses, with some delightful vocals. It’s followed by the crushing fuzzed up groove of “Smash the Grave”, which turns direction and gets the heads nodding with some wide and powerful riffing alongside Dave-O’s smooth and clear vocals. They shouldn’t work together yet they fit perfectly, a beautiful combination of light and shade with nods to the work of Josh Homme in both QOTSA and Kyuss.
It’s not all bludgeoning riffs though, as the aptly named “The Lingering” ultimately proves. A slow, meandering workout with Eastern / Oriental vibes that simply drift along, it’s a delightful and delicate sorbet to cleanse the aural palette before the thick riffs of “Seas of Glory” crash back in at high tempo. If you’re after a little psychedelia then there’s a bit of that here too as “Empire of Vultures”, a short instrumental piece, leads into the acoustic finale of “Blood Moon”.
This is a release that oozes quality and class and has been on repeat since it arrived in the in-box. Aural crack perhaps? It’s certainly as addictive…. and probably a damn sight better for you!
The Grand Mal‘s II is OUT NOW via APF Records.