Payne's Gray - Kadath Decoded. 1995 Germany

One of the most oddball, out-of-nowhere, metal releases of all time. I bought this CD not long after it was released, and it remains one of my most intriguing metal albums in the collection. The group had a couple of demos in the early 90s, released the full length Kadath Decoded, and then disappeared into the ether without a trace. Most metal bands have "band trees" that would make an 1800s Kentucky hillbilly proud, with so much inbreeding amongst the groups, it seems they're all a big one-toothed family. But Payne's Gray were the ultimate outsiders. It appears only bassist Martin Mannhardt continued on, landing in the hard rock group Wicked Sensation. There is a Facebook page, but it's from a loyal fan trying to keep the name alive, not an official sanction.

The album itself is as strange as the group's isolation. It's not even until the 3rd track, almost 10 minutes in, does one begin to realize that it is a metal album at all. The compositions are certainly 90s styled "prog metal", but the instrumentation is far more diverse than the usual riffing and crunch on top of the chords emanating from that week's latest digital keyboard contraption - along with some eunuch screaming about something no one cares about. Nope - on Kadath Decoded there's flute, acoustic guitar, and real singing and lyrics as well. The music doesn't appear to be based in genre norms, and had it been released 20 years earlier, most assuredly would be under consideration for my "Wonderful Freaky Underground" list. There's no other album quite like this one, and I find it endearing because of it. That's not to say it's not recognizable - oh no not that - it's still very familiar. Like a skewed camera shot of your living room. They took their one crack at creating a unique vision of an album concept based on Lovecraft, and left something to ponder for years to come. A real head-scratcher for sure.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Grau

Last listen: 2015

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