According to the bio posted on their Bandcamp page Norway's Grand Atomic started out by taking their influences from Electric Wizard, Sleep and OM but then in the process stumbled on a sound all of their own. It has to be said that the sound Grand Atomic stumbled across is not a million miles removed from the riff heavy grooves of their heroes but it is different enough not to be considered worshipful or tributary and has, over the duration of the bands life, proceeded to become less informed by those influences and more a sound bearing its own signature. The band have just released their first full album "Beyond the Realm of Common Sense" and if you like your doom "weedian" and heavy then this one is for you.
Of course those Sleep/Electric Wizard influences are never far away and still play a huge part in Grand Atomics' overall sound but the more Desert Psychlist listens to "Beyond the Realm of Common Sense" the less we hear the sway of Matt Pike and Jus Oborn's influences and the more we are reminded of the likes of Sweden's Spelljammer and Poland's Dopelord, bands that jam similar low slow and heavy dynamics to early Sleep and Electric Wizard but tend to infuse those dynamics with aspects of space and heavy psych. Opening track "Mountain Toker (Summit Smoker)" is a perfect example of how Grand Atomic have incorporated those aspects of psych and space into their thunderous "weedian" flavoured grooves, here we have a song that exhibits all the thick dank riffage and ponderous powerful percussion you could ever hope to find in a song pitched at the stoner end of doom but also boasts subtle shades of alien otherworldliness beneath its low slow and heavy façade, something that becomes even more noticeable around the songs brief but wholly effective monotonic vocal. Seeing as we are speaking of vocals we should point out this is an area where a lot has changed for Grand Atomic, the clean melodic, almost bluesy, vocals that adorned their debut EP "Ivy King" have for the most part of the new release been replaced by an almost ethereal vocal dynamic, well that is apart from following track "Space Train", a superb psych/doom barnburner where the solitary line "needle in the vain, take a ride on the space train" is delivered in what could only be described as a heavily filtered joyous bark. The instrumental "Nibiru" follows "Space Train" and is a mixture of droning feedback and off kilter effects that is not so much a song as an experiment in sound, it might not be pretty but it does show how far this band have moved away from those influences that first inspired them to pick up their instruments. "Descending" finds the band on more structured ground with the band jamming a heavy psyched out circular doom groove beneath a clean vocal that boasts an almost celestial/spiritual quality, this has to be Desert Psychlist's favourite song of the six on offer, not because its the heaviest or the most diverse but because it is on this song that all the bands past influences and all the band visions of where they want to take their music come together in a perfect synergy. Penultimate track "Drifter Part II" begins languid and lysergic then explodes into a heavy weedian groove decorated with tasteful guitar colouring and a vocal attack similar to that which was employed on the bands debut EP while final track "King of Hesh" closes out proceedings by going fully weedian, the band grooving on one riff but adjusting the attack of that riff so as to build up tension and atmosphere, a theoretically simple concept but one that needs good musicianship to successfully pull off, thankfully Grand Atomic are exceptional musicians.
© 2023 Frazer Jones