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Giant Squid

Bay Area band is heavier than a giant ground sloth, at least half the time

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Convention tells me to go with 16.

But, not surprisingly, I’m saying fuck convention.

This Thursday, Feb. 12, Southern California’s infamous, chugging, brewing hardcore riff factory – 16 – will be in Tacoma, at Hell’s Kitchen, playing a show along with Giant Squid, Lozen and Monuments Collide. Though 16 calls Relapse records home, and reunited in 2007 after a four-year layoff — releasing Bridges to Burn on Jan. 20 — something in my gut keeps screaming “go with the Giant Squid.”

So I am.

By all accounts, Giant Squid is worth it. Defined as post-metal by those so inclined to define sounds, Giant Squid’s package is much bigger than simple classifications can prescribe. A sonic and visual full meal deal of ball vibrating, doom spelling force (not to mention the class only a cello can provide), Giant Squid mixes a heavier than healthy power with mind-stretching songwriting and fantastical story telling, and pushes and contorts the established boundaries of music — to full affect.

The result is better felt in your chest than read on paper, trust me.

“Bryan (Ray Beeson, bassist) and I have been playing music together, nonstop for 15 years, so I guess we’re kind of the bricklayers. We’re pretty telepathic when we write riffs together. Jackie (Perez Gratz, cello, vocals) can take anything we write and just make it sound timeless with the cello,” explains the band’s leader, Aaron John Gregory, of Giant Squid, which also includes drummer Christopher Melville Lyman.

Together, the four musicians meld to paint a devastating yet beautiful picture — naturally, using the heaviest brushstrokes possible, but being delicate when need be. Giant Squid’s The Ichthyologist, the band’s sophomore release, which “dropped” on Feb. 3, is all the proof you need. Based on a graphic novel written by Gregory, The Ichthyologist, is equal parts power, beauty and brains — mixed in a ratio prime for consumption.

The Ichthyologist is much different than our previous effort and debut, Metridium Fields,” says Gregory. “Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like Giant Squid, totally. But, the songs are all shorter and much more to the point. The Ichthyologist is a full, 10-song album, written to be one cohesive thing from beginning to end, mostly because it’s a story, albeit an abstract one.

“Each song is much more focused, in both its own feel and what part of the story it’s portraying, but they each still sound like they belong in the mix with the tracks next to it, no matter how different they individually may be. I think it might take people who were fans of the first record, mostly because it was a heavy/doom/stoner this or that, a bit to adjust to the very un-doom nature of The Ichthyologist,” continues Gregory. “Which is funny, ’cause The Ichthyologist is more down tuned than anything before, and is fucking heavy as a giant ground sloth for half of its hour-long play time.”

While it might take older fans a while to adjust to the complexity of The Ichthyologist, it shouldn’t 16 long to adapt to touring with Giant Squid — a band that feels comfortable describing itself as “heavy as a giant ground sloth” — even if it’s only half of the time.

Naturally, Giant Squid is stoked about the opportunity to hit the road with 16.

“They sound fucking incredible live. So heavy and powerful. Tone monsters,” says Gregory of 16. “They just want to kill it at every show and then move on to the next town. So do we, so it’s perfect.”

Expect both 16 and Giant Squid to “kill it” at Hell’s Kitchen on Thursday, Feb. 12. Convention says 16 will be the main attraction, but Giant Squid may just prove convention wrong.

I’m counting on it.

[Hell’s Kitchen, 16, Giant Squid, Lozen, Monuments Collide, Thursday, Feb. 12, 9 p.m., $5, 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6003]

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