The term ‘psychedelia’ usually conjures up images of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane fame crooning against a backdrop of a liquid light show. Or those blacklight posters on the walls of your friends from school who were into particular habits. Either way, it’s usually all about vivid swirling colors in both the mind and off of the fretboard. But this is not always the case.
Sometimes psychedelia is darker, harsher, and more evocative of the cold steel rail than the green field. This is where we find the French three-piece Greyborn. Having shed the vestiges of the 1960s/70s trappings of the previous band Mama’s Gun, the Limoges’ based act carves out a distinct path that is not to the promised land, but rather the fall of civilization.
Comprised of drummer/vocalist Théo Jude, bassist Guillaume Barrou, and guitarist Maxime Conan, the Frenchmen’s EP Leeches kicks off with the title track. The guitar work is highly reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age, but the rhythm section is more bludgeoning and bombastic. It recalls the stomp of Melvins or TAD. Not unlike acts such as Philadelphia’s The Stone Eye or Germany’s Camel Driver, Greyborn seem to look to the 90s for inspiration.
The tradition continues with the grinding second track Bits & Pieces. A mid-tempo head-banging track if ever there was one, the song is a cautionary piece about the progression of science set against a rollicking drumbeat. If you’re my age, you might get a bad case of a sore neck, especially when it launches into a satisfyingly Red Fang-ish middle segment.
Greyborn have succeeded in making a unique brand of psychedelic heavy rock…
Jharia finds the apocalyptic modern psychedelia the band is aiming for. A tribal drum beginning accompanies mournful post-rock guitar before launching into a melodic and steady journey across a forsaken landscape. I’ve always marveled at drummer-singers, they’re clearly a distinct breed, and Jude certainly fits this role well. He provides the mighty backbone of Greyborn’s assault, while also being the lyrical narrator. Much of the overt heaviness of the band comes from Barrou’s looming bass tone: Thick, meaty, and with only a slight hint of warmth.
Conan’s guitar often adds more flourishes and outer growths, before joining his bandmates in the band’s full-on attack. We later return to Josh Homme-ish territory with After Dark. This track feels much more like The Desert Sessions than QOTSA with a distinctive British post-punk flair. And we close out with the keyboard-infused Corrosive Faith, a very nice final entry with some strong vocals that finishes nicely with an appropriately doom crescendo.
Along with their countrymen Slift and Mars Red Sky, Greyborn have succeeded in making a unique brand of psychedelic heavy rock that incorporates various influences, rather than sticking to overly familiar types of fuzzed-out guitar stoner patterns that can be easily over-saturated. I was pleased with the EP, and it delivers a bleak-yet-soulful vibe which is a bit of a breath of fresh air. If you need a break from the usual fare of LSD-drenched butterfly flights of fancy and you want something grounded in a sobering reality, Leeches just might be for you.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh