If you had introduced me to a band such as Squalus a few years ago, I would have given a blank, uninterested listen and never touched on the music again. After beginning to play an instrument myself, though, my appreciation for music really kicked off. I began to delve more and more into bands that were unique, and progressive metal became more and more present in my weekly playlist. Recently I found a band named Giant Squid, and they are different than anything I have ever heard. Research on the band proved a saddening result: they had broken up after an extended hiatus. However, when I heard about Squalus, a four piece band made up of former Giant Squid members, I was ecstatic.
Squalus has been able to create a modern masterpiece with The Great Fish. Rather than sticking to the classic genre format, they are able to beautifully fuse progressive, doom, sludge, industrial, and post-metal into one churning machine that doesn’t hesitate to catch you in its jaws. If this doesn’t interest you enough, this concept album’s focus is the classic film JAWS. With just two bass guitars, keyboards, and vocals, Squalus is able to capture their subject matter in an almost perfect way. The groovy bass lines, the wavy keyboard, the various vocal styles, the overall vibe this album puts out- it’s unbeatable.
The album opens with the title track, tossing you immediately into a serene and eerie atmosphere. It gives you this floating feeling, as if drifting through the ocean. The song vividly describes the shark’s senses as it searches for prey, and roughly a minute through the song, suddenly pulls you under. As you will find, this album has no shortage of out of the blue, surprising moments that will send chills down your spine. As the dual bass guitars and drumming rip into you, keyboardist Andy Southard creates a clean-cutting backing that keeps the song interesting. The fifth track “Jack the Ripper” focuses on Hooper’s so called “Half-Ass Autopsy” scene from the original film. While they didn’t use the films audio, my thought is due to copyright restrictions, the vocalist did a great job in his stead. The underlying piano and slowly building bass gives a focus on the lyrics, taking a break from the sludgy assault throughout the album. Halfway through this short song, the drums become present, and the bass picks up the rhythm building to the iconic line from the film: “it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper”
As you near the end of the album, you come to a piece called “The USS Indianapolis.” It begins with a clean bass and piano with an almost jazzy feel to the music. The song moves to a sludgy portion with shouted vocals tossed deep into the fuzzy mix of bass and keyboard. Here and there you’ll get touches of individual sound from each instrument, making sure you are actively listening. Former Giant Squid member Jackie Perez Gratz makes an instrumental contribution to this track, a chilling cello performance overlaid by vocalist Aaron Gregory’s excellent rendition of Captain Quint’s USS Indianapolis monologue, and of course, sludgy bass here and there.
With The Great Fish, Squalus has been able to perfectly nail an unorthodox approach to a simple idea. Concept albums are nothing new to metal, or music in general. Bands face huge judgement based on the subject matter and how well they pull it off. How this band is able to create music so thick and challenging to listener is beyond me, but it works in a great way. This album is nothing short of amazing, and a must listen for fans of any sort of metal.
The Great Fish is now available via Translation Loss Records.