When Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker and then-bassist John Nichols began writing music together in the early '90s, the intention was to create something different from the grunge sound that permeated the music industry at the time. Sparhawk and Parker wrote slow, minimalist songs with emotional density using only clean guitar, bass, a snare drum and a tom. With 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire, Low began experimenting with louder, slightly more complex, energetic songs, but by 2002's Trust, the trio (Zak Sally has been their bass player since 1995) seemed ready to return to their "slowcore" roots.
The Great Destroyer, though, lives up to its name. First, it's on Sub Pop, the label that introduced the world to grunge back in the early '90s; second, it's Low with distortion, and an almost pop aesthetic. "California" and "Just Stand Back" both begin with chord sequences that are all sunshine and up-tempo, and the distorted guitars on "Everybody's Song" grate against what sounds like an almost full drum kit.
"It's a hit, it's got soul, steal the show with your rock and roll," sings Sparhawk on "Just Stand Back," "Just stand back, I could turn on you so fast." Low has turned on us, but underneath the gloss, there is Parker's vibrato and minor key harmonies that give even the poppiest song a twinge of Low darkness. The Great Destroyer eats through the molasses and unearths a vibrancy that was there all along, just waiting for the right time to show itself.