When I first listened to Black Tar Prophecies Vol's 1, 2, & 3 by Grails, it blew me away. Mixing together influences as wide as classic rock, doom, psychedelic, and yes, even world music, it was a heady rush of sound that found the group moving in an exciting new direction. Burning Off Impurities basically starts in the same place that they ended on that last release and continues pushing down the same path. There's still a wide variety of sounds at play here, but unlike their previous release (which was a compilation of tracks), this newest album sounds like one cohesive and fluid whole. With production assistance by Steven Wray Lobdell (of kraut rock legends Faust), it certainly has some knowledge behind the boards as well.
Because it moves in a similar direction as their past release, it's not as immediately striking upon first listen. It's a bit more restrained than one might expect, working more subtle dynamic shifts while still absolutely oozing with atmosphere. Things kick off with "Soft Temple," and it's hard to decide whether the title is referencing a soft spot on a skull or a place of worship weakened by some otherworldly force. Mystical and mysterious, the track finds sitar, banjo, piano, and guitar tip-toeing across one another while a steady and heady rhythm section keeps things slithering along before the song crests with a nice dose of rock.
"More Extinction" packs a wallop in just over two minutes, as field recordings, droning bass and muffled, but powerful drums play out under a simple, but effective harpsichord melody. Over the course of eight tracks and just over fifty minutes running length, the group plays with space nicely as well. The long "Silk Rd" is a dense, swirling rush of world-touched rock music that spirals into a glorious crescendo and subsequent extended breakdown, while the more sparse "Drawn Curtains" pulls together filtered percussion and multiple layers of spacey drones (along with woozy guitars) into something that surrounds you like a fog and then gradually drifts away again.
While the album-titled closer of "Burning Off Impurities" seems to recycle a few of the ideas that came before it, the group still shows off a lot of great sounds on the release, including the super dynamic "Origin-ing," which veers from quiet, bass and harmonica driven verses into some of the most loud and rocking moments on the entire release. As a whole, Burning Off Impurities doesn't feel like quite the groundbreaking shift that their last release was, but it's solid refinement of the sound that they first introduced there, and definitely something different than the scores of bands churning out the same old weary post rock.