by Torrey Proto (@torreysbrewin)
Greys begin their manic sophomore LP Outer Heaven on a cold and somber note with opener "Cruelty.” The dark imagery of Shehzaad Jiwani’s lyrics paint a foreboding picture taken from a real occurrence of a random act of violence of a stranger waiting to kill passersby under the guise of friendship. “You see us standing in the dark / we want to know your name / we want to see your face before we hurt you,” he sings softly, his voice sounding clearer than ever. This introduction makes it immediately evident that Greys have completed their transformation from a great, loud punk band into a more refined and unpredictable beast without sacrificing any of the impact that the former entails.
Outer Heaven sees Greys' ambitious vision fully realized. Longtime friend and producer Mike Rocha helped the band, who co-produced it, bring it to life. Their presence sounds bigger than ever on their follow-up to the ferocious If Anything. Where some of their previous efforts carried more obvious influences, the band weaves more disparate inspirations into a sonic world all their own that is both immediate and ambiguously serene. Showing off a diverse sonic pallet, the Toronto-based quartet cover lots of ground and stun audiences with their loud but textured aural assaults. They continue to develop their already dynamic sound into a twisted and unique breath of fresh air that captures the frustrations of a modern life with the push and pull of their lush soundscapes and feedback-soaked tantrums.
Greys' surreal dreamland can turn to vivid nightmares on a dime and vice versa. The final trio of songs illustrate Greys’ penchant for releasing their pent up restless energy in unexpected and jarring outbursts. The aptly titled "Strange World" illustrates this title as the dreary atmosphere gently lulls you into hypnosis before alternating between fierce shredding and screamed vocals and then curiously returning to the haze as if the preceding noise had never existed. "Sorcerer" follows it and begins ominously until a scintillating riff quells the nerves before lapsing back into madness but returning to serenity just in time for the chorus. The gorgeously haunting and lyrically clever closer “My Life as a Cloud” enters with the steady pulse of a drum machine followed by distorted guitars that recall Leaves Turn Inside You-era Unwound. Jiwani warns that empathy and abuse of technology will pave the way for a future where we eschew our human form and upload our consciousness into a cloud database. He has a lyrical knack for creating vivid, allegorical narratives that get to the heart of very real and constant issues. Outer Heaven isn’t all doom and gloom, though, as Jiwani often has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, singing endlessly quotable lines like “my life is a fucking Green Day lyric,” from the seething “Complaint Rock,” where he takes on the supposed value of an opinion on social media through poking fun at poking fun.
Outer Heaven is a compelling testament of the hard work of Greys. It’s a huge step forward for them and undoubtedly their most subtle and obscure creation. It’s a record that keeps surprising with every listen, as they slyly refuse to reveal all of their tricks on the first listen. They’ve struck a not-so-harmonious balance between the straight ahead brute force of past efforts and the more subdued psychedelia of recent releases. A record full of wit and engaging dialogue, Outer Heaven is the mark of a band comfortable in their own skin and willing to evolve beyond their comfort zone in a musical landscape full of complacent ones claiming to do the same.