The Grand Astoria – Omnipresence

How many of you know a friend that has a band that you’re sure is gonna be “the next big thing”? That’s kind of what we have here. Just to make it clear, I do not know anyone from this St. Petersburg based band personally (which might be different in the future, who knows), but the internet is a tool that connects people, among other things. Thus, I was contacted by The Grand Astoria’s main man, Mr. Kamille Sharapodinov, we have exchanged few emails and, during their recent tour which took part in Slovenia too, he sent me their brand new, third album called Omnipresence.

We could agree that The Grand Astoria is an established name in the underground circles in Russia, but the band has widened their accessibility to the Western Europe with this series of tours. Another thing that goes well with the “next big thing” theory is of course their musical work, what is the core of the present debate. After an excellent start in the shape of The Grand Astoria album, the band shifted further and granted a tour-de-force achievement simply called The Grand Astoria II. What Omnipresence brings is a much bigger shift, expressing eclecticism much more in comparison with previous two releases.

Speaking of the band’s eclectic waving, there are notable influences that come from punk, metal, classic rock, stoner rock, blues, progressive rock, jazz, grunge, pop, which is (once again) a good indicator of the band’s power to reach out a pretty wide spectrum of fans. The music is truly complex, but to an ear of a listener it sounds so dashing and catchy, everything is covered with the veil of simplicity and spontaneity. The music of The Grand Astoria is mainly sealed by Sharapodinov’s vocals and guitar work of him and Igor Suvorov, who show off some really magnificient work, as through musicianship and instrumentation. Living in a world in which “inovation” has become a worn phrase, we are absolutely facing devolution of music, thus we may be grateful for finding bands such The Grand Astoria.

If you put together the music and the great artwork (designed by the young and talented Sophia Miroedova), the logic conclusion would be that The Grand Astoria draws their inspiration not only from musical aspects, but also from landscapes: deserts, cactuses, dusty roads, Scandinavian woods, Russian winters, spaghetti westerns, etc. Blending a variety of subgenres, Omnipresence reminds me of the much cited Black Sabbath, Kyuss / Brant Bjork, Wo Fat, Causa Sui, Pearl Jam, Orange Sunshine, Metallica and who-knows-what-else.

The bay area thrash metal at the beginning of Doomsday Party brings Exodus to mind, while in the Sharapodinov / Suvorov duo comes up with blowing solos followed by groovy and strong riffs all along.

Hungry & Foolish is something like when Colour Haze goes bluesy with twisted, kind of distorted vocals. Some time in the middle of the track Hammond organs take the lead, showing off the progressive side of the recording. It’s obvious that aforementioned guitar duo likes to employ a lot of wah-wah pedals.

The best description for the upcoming Mania Grandiosa would be a stoney-hard rock groove with space rock intercrossing. The drumming on this one leaves the highest impression, as well as employing the Rhodes piano in a solo part that makes a parallel between jazz and prog rock.


Omniabsence is a completely instrumental track that comes an interlude between the two halves of the album. It’s a very spacy, very atmospheric piece with a post-rock attitude here and there that leads into Rat Race in Moscow, one of the catchiest songs on the album and mostly punk-rock driven.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is the lengthiest track, totalling a little less than 13 minutes, which opens as the most straight stoner rock piece. It’s expected that this one has the most to offer, thus this one is also one of the most diverse songs in its structure. By the middle, the song breaks into a mid-tempo structure followed by a very nice melody line of vocals and guitars that lead into a narrative part which breaks into a series of guitar solos.

The funkiness of The Song of Hope probably makes this the weakest song, but I am sure it’s only because of my non-sympathetic attitude towards funk. I have to mention that this one also features a lip accordion. In general it comes as a good filler to the overall image of Omnipresence. The title track is a good companion to Omniabsence, space rock wrapped up with desert rock and sampled speeches over it.

The album closes in a big style with Stonewall, the heaviest track on the record. Greasy riffs, strong bass lines, ballsy solos, do you need anything more?

Not so many bands could commend with always growing and improving catalogue and with three albums out of three, The Grand Astoria lands down the ground which not so many of them have walked before. This Russian band comes with prosperity and it’s highly recommendable to listen to their masterfully threesome after having a successful day. You might feel really delighted. If you cannot afford yourself a room in the prestigious St. Petersburg hotel, then just grab the other Grand Astoria and stay as much as you wish. Yet another favorite in my always growing collection.

Tracklist:

01. Doomsday Party

02. Hungry & Foolish

03. Mania Grandiosa

04. Omniabsence

05. Rat Race in Moscow

06. Something Wicked This Way COmes

07. The Song of Hope

08. Omnipresence

09. Stonewall

Line-up:

* Kamille Sharapodinov – vocals, guitars

* Igor Suvorov – guitars

* Farid Azizov – bass, backing vocals

* Nick Kunavin – drums, backing vocals

with:

* Evan Vorobiev – keyboards (3, 7)

* Alexander Karpov – keyboards (2, 6, 9)

* Alex Astero – keyboards (3)

* Arkadiy Fedotov – keyboards (4, 8 )

* Peter Bingham – guitars (8)

* Serj Andrewshack – guitars (7)

* Nicky Santoro – harmonica (7)

Links:

http://www.myspace.com/thegrandastoria

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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