I have observed that heavy, unrelenting music can often be a difficult tightrope to walk. Some bands go all in, only to lose me with their lack of nuance and diversity. Some bands, though, know how to inject this sound with memorable textures and gorgeous ideas. Grorr is certainly such a band. Their latest album is called Ddulden’s Last Flight, and I’m really enjoying it.
Grorr hails from France. I would have never guessed that. This is their first full-length album since 2014. The band consists of Franck Michel on vocals, Yoann Estingoy on guitar, Sylvain Kansara keyboards and folk instruments, Christine Lanusse on bass, and Jeremy Chababaux on drums. All of these musicians are very, very important to the sound that Grorr gives us.
The style of music the band plays is under debate online, apparently. I consider this album a math rock/djent/progressive metal mashup, featuring angular time signatures, the typical stuttering riffs of djent, and the overarching precision, technicality, fantastical nature, and feeling of prog metal. However, unlike other such bands, Grorr knows how to pace themselves, inserting interludes, Asian folk melodies, and a wide array of instruments into the mix. The results are heavy and unrelenting at times, but cinematic, whimsical, and folksy in other moments.
I really love this sound. Franck has a gruffer voice, but he maintains a great range. In fact, his vocals combined with this style of music reminds me of the Finnish band Oddland, which I’ve spoken about in the past. Anyways, I am seriously impressed with all of the performances on this album. Yoann’s guitars are vicious and bulky, Christine’s bass is voluptuous and in-your-face, and Jeremy’s drumming is technical and satisfying. Sylvain handles the keys, which are sweeping and beautiful, but also plays a wide range of folk instruments. They seem to originate from many places around the world, though, and I’m pretty sure one of them is the Chinese pipa with its fanciful, otherworldly tuning. I think I may hear a guzheng, dizi, and yangqin, too. Honestly, I’m guessing, and there are a bunch I can’t place, but I recognize very well.
My only real complain about Ddulden’s Last Flight is the mix. It can sometimes sound a bit muddy, specifically in the middle of heavy passages that also feature the delicate folk melodies. The more melodic side can get lost to some degree, especially if you are listening via speakers. When listening via headphones, I don’t get this effect as often.
The album honestly doesn’t have a weak track, though. A couple tracks, being “Ddulden Dreams Beyond the Peak” and “Ddulden Flies to His Fate”, are purely melodic and cinematic in presentation, like interludes, and “Hit the Ground” is an ambient, textured song that really keeps the album diverse. The other tracks are mostly a mix of heavy and reserved. Some fantastic songs are “Sky High” with its mountainous, harmonious sound; “Newborn Whirlwind” with its mix of heavy, cinematic, and Chinese sounds; and “Last Flight”, probably having the best chorus on the album and a keyboard-soaked ending that is absolutely stunning. The bonus tracks, “Orange Lao” and “The Painter”, are both excellent, too; the former being heavy and the latter being greatly balanced between organic folk sounds and riffy edge.
My favorite songs, though, are “Siren’s Call” and “Blackened Rain”. The former has reeling style of riff, almost like inhaling and exhaling, and it will certainly get your head bobbing. The last few minutes might be the heaviest on the album, and the subtle chants really elevate the grooves achieved. Now, “Blackened Rain” is my favorite overall, and I think will be a favorite song this year. The song is incredibly diverse in its sound, burning with percussion, quirky instrumentation, and smooth transitions. I absolutely love the way it hits hard in some moments, while pining in folk instrumentation in others.
Grorr has a seriously great album on their hands. It feels magical, adventurous, and perilous. It feels like harrowing dangers, but also gentle moments of peace. It is clear that the band knows how to achieve a mature and arresting balance of sounds, and I definitely will continue to explore this release for some time.
Find Grorr online: