The Phantom Tollbooth

Artist: Gryp
Label: Metro One Music
Time: 11 tracks/36:54 minutes

So what do these guys have going for them besides a cool name?  Well, for one, they've already been pigeonholed into the rapidly expanding xian music genre deemed "rap-core."  That's a shame, because Gryp really has something unique with their debut full length Indecision.  Musically, Gryp could be described as having the hip-hop/rap touches of Korn combined with the hardcore chaos of a Training for Utopia.  Don't expect any radio friendly songs or any kind of standard song structure either. Musically, Gryp ranges from short, spastic grooves to nearly spoken word pieces, to off-kilter guitar noises and eerie electronic samples and intros.  The fight song "Against the Crowd"  utilizes a funky guitar intro before moving off into the immense groove and screamed chorus, while the track "Real" starts with a Fifties movie soundtrack sample before screeching into the tense guitar crunch.

Lead singer Curtis Shamlin's voice is the real treasure of this CD. Shamlin can start a song off with a haunting, melodic whisper, switch to lightning fast rapping, then finish in a normal singing voice.  With self explanatory lyrics filled with lines like:

Why do I have to believe
In some man who died for me?
Why do I have to go to church?
I'm good enough, I'm good enough.
Am I not good enough for you?
I've never hurt anyone...

Never!  Good enough for you, never!
(No one comes to the Father but by me.
Anyone who thinks he can lost his chance at salvation.)

it's obvious that Gryp is a band who thinks of themselves as a ministry.

Production values are fine, though it would have been interesting to see how Gryp would have pulled off all these samples and guitar tones on an indie budget.  With an honest, original style, Gryp is definitely a welcome addition to  the genre.  Expect 80% of the music buying public to hate this release, and the other 20% who understand it to form a rabid fan club.

Joe Rockstroh  9/3/99


Here we have the second release from Gryp, a psychedelic hardcore band from Fresno, California. The first offering was a self released 5 song EP entitled Real. A review of this EP can be found here.

The band's latest effort, Indecision, contains 11 tracks, four of which are  newly recorded version of songs from Real (all but "Hypocrite" are here). Of the seven new tracks included, three of them, totaling about 6 minutes, are primarily weird funky instrumentals with some spoken words or other sounds added. That leaves us with four new songs.

The new songs are pretty cool and improve on Gryp's eclectic style of hardcore, adding a level of intensity as well as melody. Their style could be characterized as a funky blend of metallic hardcore mixed with heavy Scaterd Few influences, and some touches of modern rock. Curtis Shamlin's vocal sound and delivery are pretty varied, ranging from whispered, to screamed, and all over in between including some rap delivery and some psychotic ranting which resembles Allan Aguirre of Scaterd Few/Spy Glass Blue.

Regarding the four songs included from the EP, they differ mainly by the addition of effects on the vocals, funkier playing, and some weird guitar noises. Though the "remixes" give a fair representation of the original songs, I feel that something closer to the versions on the EP would have made for a better, more cohesive album overall. In remaking these songs Gryp seems to have tried too hard to make them different, without improving them. It's almost as if they felt bad for including songs from their EP on their "full length".

There are instances in the lyrics where it is unclear what they are trying to communicate, but it is clear that Gryp is a band who believes in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Among other things they deal with issues like being ridiculed for being Christians, and letting people know that they are not good enough to make it to heaven on their own merits.

Though this release is a bit disappointing to me because of the lack of new material and change in the old, I can't help but recommend it to any fan of heavy music who is not afraid to try something a little different. Gryp deserves to be heard.

By: Chris King      (9/10/99)