Review || Nathan Gray - "Feral Hymns"

Disclaimer before we start. Not to disrespect Nathan Gray Collective and the very interesting album they created last year, but this is definitely what I expected from a Nathan Gray solo project. Music stripped off any excess and back to the very basics; a guitar and that familiar timbre. And a cello. And a piano. Consisting of 12 tracks, nine originals and two NGC and a Boysetsfire rearrangements, it's a testament of creativity and passion.

The listener is already familiar with the ballads/singles "Echoes" and "Alone". The album, however, is well balanced between the dynamic defiance of the upbeat songs ("As The Waves Crash Down", "Quixote's Last Ride"), the reintroduction of previously released hymns ("Wayward Ghosts", "Across Five Years", "Damascus") and the vulnerability of the singer in the spotlight ("Walk", "Burn Away"). Nathan's voice has a unique ability to sound really intimate, as if he's sitting in a room singing just for the listener. He uses his full range to convey powerful emotions; from his strong lower register to the consistent belting, his expressiveness renders his performance spine-chilling. This becomes particularly evident when it comes to the slower songs, where the cello and piano strategically subtly enrobe the guitar and amplify the intensity of the vocals. Gray has gained the confidence to stand exposed in front of the crowd, singing a capella the first verse of "Walk", one of the most outstanding tracks on the album. I really love the arrangement and how the introduction of the female singer enhances the contrast between the two voices at the 02:36 mark. Furthermore, the way he breathes new life into "Across Five Years" is phenomenal. In all its terse glory, the song builds up to a beautiful crescendo where Nathan's interpretation perfectly matches the resignation in his lyrics. Starting off with a calmer, almost airy tone, his frustration develops into a loud, heartbreaking manifestation of self-condemnation. And his resonance, as his voice slightly cracks at the end, is absolutely hair-raising. 

The album flows so seamlessly, it's over before you know it. It was worth the wait and the experimentation that preceded it. I find fascinating how an artist, who's spent over half of his physical life creating music, can so artfully re-invent himself (without pulling a Chuck Ragan) and finally come forward with the project that he can present under his name and really take pride in. It's pure, honest and soulful. It's everything I could ask for. 
10/10, not even going to argue here.
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