Grayscale – ‘Nella Vita’

By Gem Rogers

When Philadelphia group Grayscale took to social media to unceremoniously boot out drummer Nick Veno earlier this year, it caused quite the stir. Fans were upset, headlines were made – but still, something didn’t seem quite right. As it turned out, it was all part of an entertaining (if slightly mean) ruse as part of promotion for a new video, though it was hard to tell whether fans were ultimately more annoyed by the prank, or the fact that the video wasn’t for a new song.

Fortunately, there wasn’t too long to wait before the next era of Grayscale began, with breathtaking second single ‘In Violet’ demonstrating just what the five piece are capable of; a song that perfectly balances the finality of death with the joy of living, shifting darkness into light with a celebration of all that brings us hope and happiness.

When leading with singles of such a calibre, there’s a lot to live up to. With this twelve track album, there was plenty of room for Grayscale to fall short of the high bar they set themselves – and yet, from the echoing first moments of ‘Just Right’ as Collin Walsh’s vocals tumble in with his vibrant, heartfelt tone, it’s clear there’s little chance of finding disappointment here.

Grayscale are often classed as a pop punk band, but ‘Nella Vita’ isn’t that clear cut – much like Emarosa’s ‘Peach Club’, it’s an album that takes a cue from pop and rock, but proceeds to carve its own way through the concept of genre. The result is something both fresh and distinctive – not to mention perilously catchy – as the band clearly feel comfortable experimenting more broadly with their sound than on past releases. On any other album, the quirky synth-pop of ‘What’s On Your Mind’ and retro vibes of ‘In Your Arms’ might sound out of place, but here they seem to make perfect sense. It’s just enough to have fun with, without growing tiresome or too heavily reliant on synths and effects.

One thing that hasn’t changed since previous album ‘Adornment’ is Grayscale’s ability to produce meaningful, memorable lyrics, and ‘Nella Vita’ sees the band build on this as they tackle frequently darker and more personal subjects. It’s strong throughout, but there are some that hit particularly hard – standout tracks include ‘YOUNG’, tackling mental health with a positive, inspiring spin, and album closer ‘Tommy’s Song’. While this is a song written directly about vocalist Walsh’s life and experience, it feels like a door has been opened into a place that is deeply relatable for many; it’s often hard to listen to, yet powerfully cathartic as it builds to a haunting, beautifully layered climax.

It’s all helped along by production that is clean without stripping away the heart of these songs, and there are plenty of highlights. ‘Twilight (My Heaven)’ is a huge singalong track driven by summery riffs and dancing drums from Nick Veno (still, fortunately, very much a member of the band), while ‘Asbury’ allows Walsh’s vocals to shine once more in an gentle acoustic track that could easily have been plucked from former Yellowcard front man William Ryan Key’s back catalogue. This is the kind of album that could be played a hundred times and still not reveal any low points, each song bursting with emotion.

Much like ‘In Violet’, ‘Nella Vita’ is a celebration. It is bright and colourful, spilling over with an utterly honest, shimmering vibrance; in finding the beauty in the trials of life, Grayscale have captured what it is to dance in the rain, to keep moving forward with love and joy. With ‘Nella Vita’, Grayscale have more than stepped up to the mark, and it’s an album that should rightfully see them take their place among the greats of the scene – and with this as our soundtrack, the future couldn’t look much better.

GEM ROGERS

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