Hailing from the “land down under,” the Australian band Grand Duke is the brainchild of songwriter and guitarist Joe Pigram. The five band members have released Mountains to the West, their debut EP, which incorporates a dynamic blend of metal and rock woven throughout its five songs.
“The Custodian” starts the record on an epic tone with charged power chords from electric guitars and thunderous percussion underlying Jason Hore’s gravelly, yet melodic vocals. The five-minute anthem transverses traditional rock themes while maintaining a unique edge and aura characterized by bass and guitar riffs.
The album’s title track follows with a slightly uptempo beat, clapping and vocals that alternate between raspy screaming and soft crooning. Vocal harmonies bring an added layer to the soundscape, and the danceable rhythm adds an uplifting style to the otherwise dark and ominous music.
The EP continues relentlessly with “Ancient Satellites” and the energy of the music only increases steadily throughout the first three tracks. Held-out notes and lightning-paced guitar riffs heave this tune towards the far reaches of music’s dynamic range with only the solid beat of the drums to anchor the song to the ground. This tension is effective, as the juxtaposition of sounds forces the listener to give full attention to the ever-more-intense melodies and harmonies.
“The Space Between the Stars” takes Grand Duke to a slightly more ethereal style with its droning, spacey guitar riffs. This instrumental gives the listener a short mental break after the preceding three songs, but the catchiness and stylistic mastery of the band is still evident even without vocals.
The six-and-a-half-minute, epic anthem “Red Jewels” brings Mountains to the West to a climactic ending. The first five minutes are no surprise musically, and the band pulls all the stops to highlight their strengths in the realm of rock and metal. Then, somewhat uncharacteristically, a beautiful piano section closes out the last minute-and-a-half of the song, accompanied by an occasional, faint guitar. This final touch gives even more substance to what is already a fantastic album, and Grand Duke should be confident that Mountains to the West will serve them as a stepping stone to more great music.
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