Grails could never be accused of staying in its lane. The instrumental rock band plays with its far-reaching influences like a world-building card game, adding and taking away sounds with thoughtful strategy. Over the six years since Deep Politics, members Alex Hall and Emil Amos pursued beat-driven music with Lilacs & Champagne, Amos focused on the stylistically looser Holy Sons and played drums with the meditative doom-metal band Om, while Zak Riles started Watter with Slint drummer Britt Walford. With so much time away, Chalice Hymnal recognizes the disparate worlds Grails has claimed and re-entered.
"Deep Snow II" nods to Grails' doomy Americana past, but there's a compositional maturity that comes with time. As ever, there are trace elements of Popul Vuh running through its pulsing rhythms, and a touch of Bruce Langhorne's dusty acoustic guitar work, but there's a hazy ethereality, heard in how the band pulls back from the heavy fuzz when it seems most obvious. There always seem to be imaginary stories to Grails' music, but there is motivation, hesitation and uncertain triumph to "Deep Snow II" unlike anything in the band's catalog.
Chalice Hymnal comes out Feb. 17 on Temporary Residence.