Grand Ulena

Gateway to Dignity

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Here is a band to file alongside Orthrelm, Hella, and Infection and Decline-era Flying Luttenbachers in the category of elite braniacs patrolling the landscape of stripped-down, post-Ruins instrumental rock in the early 2000s. Grand Ulena challenges and defies expectations of what a guitar-bass-drum trio is supposed to deliver with this debut album, a merciless parade of asymmetrical rhythmic interplay, jagged-edged guitar-bass dissonance, and grindcore-influenced blastbeat drumming. More than just interesting on a cerebral level, the seven tracks here -- ranging in length from one minute to nearly 11 -- burn with an exciting level of no wave/noise rock-type intensity and energy. True, a few of the passages on this album revert to mere math rock-level counting exercises (the end of "Between Tholozan and Oleathea") or what feels like business for its own sake (the opening riff on "Crowbar at Crescent and Cricket"), but on the whole, things remain remarkably musical, unpretentious, and -- relatively speaking -- accessible given the level of abstraction and songwriting complexity involved. A very impressive debut.

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