At the start of 2005 Grails returned to the US from a month long European tour. Stepping off the plane most of the band walked in one direction and the violinist strayed off in another. It ended up being the last time most anyone would see or talk to him. A bandmate of 3 records and 5 years had vanished only to exist in the form of vague rumors (violin hocked for petty cash, living on the streets, etc). As the varied reports of brief encounters and sightings grew stranger and darker, the band started a series of recordings called Black Tar Prophecies. The remaining members had particular dissatisfactions with how the band had been grouped into the innocuous contemporary “post-rock” movement. This frustration, combined with newly liberated instrumental roles, introduced new possibilities for the band’s sound. In this way the collected Black Tar Prophecies ends up being a more idiosyncratic mission statement for future Grails recordings, revealing their fondness for the ground-floor 60’s and 70’s experimental artists that saw music as a process of discovery as opposed to the pre-conceived, pre-parametered, commodified sport that underground music has become. A parallel is now forming between Grails and old-school experimental bands like Faust who, rejecting their past, started over from the beginning to build new languages in music.
Grails third full length recording, and first full length since leaving Neurosis’ label Neurot, is The Black Tar Prophecies. Seven of these nine tracks from this full length were released in small highly sought after pressings of 12” vinyl on two European labels. Important is proud to release The Black Tar Prophecies in it’s complete form including two tracks not available on the vinyl releases.
The Black Tar Prophecies is a massive evolutionary step in the established Grails sound and it is shrouded in change and pain. The somewhat clinical studio sound and recording style which has established them a tremendous following has been replaced with a much more free and conceptual recording style. This method liberated the group in the studio and these recordings feel much more open, heavy and for lack of a better term “psychedelic.” We’re not talking about the cliché co-opted psychedelic fashion, but psychedelia as a reckless embrace of new states of mind and possibilities. This sound has always existed within a Grails song but now it’s been heavily pushed to the foreground. Perhaps even more eloquently and simply stated, Black Tar Prophecies 1-3 is their best record yet.