Oxfordshire’s The Grand Mal (not to be confused with Bill Whitten’s American rock band Grand Mal) self-titled debut for APF Records comes with an endorsement by none other than Butthole Surfer’s JD Pinkus and is an explosive attention grabber from the moment the first track starts.
As the rebellious off shoot from UK rising stoner rock alumni Desert Storm, TGM are headed up by the Cole brothers Ryan (guitar) and Elliot (drums). They’re joined by Mother Corona duo Dave-O (vocals) and Rob Glen (bass) on this ten track musical IED that defies you to ignore it.
Some albums just make the perfect soundtrack to certain situations. Fu Manchu, for example are the kings of driving down the open road in a convertible and The Grand Mal might have just released the best bar fight album I have heard since Scissorfight’s Jagernaut.
Opening salvo Explode could not be any better titled. The drumming tattoo, the woozy space rock vibes and mellow vocal tones do not set you up for the punch the band throw when the song takes hold properly. The bruising rhythm is towering over by Dave-O’s striking vocals, nasal, sneering, yet somehow crooning, and inviting.
The one-two punch is continued with No Man’s Land. A choppy assault to the senses where all four band members try to outdo each other in the attention grabbing stakes, yet combine gloriously to great effect.
This is a real rock ‘n’ roll album. Not an iTunes Music Festival endorsement bands output; this is the type of gritty, in your face combination of dangerous and sexy that someone like Bon Scott would have been proud of, pulling a knife and stealing your girlfriend with a grin on his face and a beer in the other hand.
The drumming tattoo, the woozy space rock vibes and mellow vocal tones do not set you up for the punch the band throw…
Wearing their influences proudly on their sleeves, the band members channel hard rock and old school metal with gleeful abandon. In their more melodic moments, they sound like Unida (Black Spiral), in their more head down driving moments they recall the older hardcore school of punk such as Black Flag. The clearly talented Dave-O can sound like Ozzy one moment (Synapse Transmission) and almost Jello Biafra the next (Pig In The Python).
Song wise this album is not all just a one-tempo dash to the bar, Black Spiral clocks in at a longer playing 7 minutes and on many of the tracks there is the sense of epicness that recalls the majesty of Led Zeppelin in the structure and dynamics.
The four years they’ve been together has been well spent honing the material that makes up this eponymous introduction into the world as the entire band seem to gel with a chemistry that feels loose and natural listening to the album. It feels fun to listen to and it feels like all the members had fun making it.
Steve ‘Geezer’ Watkins at Wormwood Studios recorded the bulk of the album in their home county of Oxford and whether this helped the band feel at ease is anyone’s guess but The Grand Mal crackle with an energy that’s infectious. If listening to this album doesn’t whisk you off to some baking hot desert highway, top down, wind in your hair and stereo blasting then you might want to consider giving up on the concept of fun.
The album draws to a close with the muted instrumental retro tones of Significant, all flamenco guitar and cymbal laced drums that morphs into a power ballad of sorts. From this multi-faceted track it’s clear that The Grand Mal have a lot to offer in terms of musical ability and song writing vision and I bet these guys absolutely kick the arse out of this live.
I was going to end this with a bad pun on the name, but the band don’t deserve that, they deserve your listen.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden