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Gévaudan : Message For The Damned (EP)

Gévaudan's promising debut is only held back by a lack of punch in the production.

You may be familiar with the legend of La Bęte du Gévaudan, an 18th-century man-eating monster that - in variously lurid guises - is presented as anything from a werewolf outbreak, to some sort of huge wolf-hybrid, to perhaps a pack of large and savage dogs. None of which you'd want to meet on a dark night, obviously, but clearly some have more monstrous street-cred than others. To stretch the simile, given the band's named after it: where do Gévaudan sit on a scale that runs from "Hound of the Baskervilles" con-trick to savage me-guts-are-hanging-out "Dog Soldiers"? Here to answer that: the debut EP: 'Message For The Damned'.

For your money, you get a self-released, studio-recorded, three-track digipack CD, presented as a tidy enough package. Unfortunately, the first thing that springs out from the content is that the production doesn't really match it: on my standard playback settings, what emerges is somewhat muted and indistinct, with an overemphasised tinny rattle of hi-hat. Getting to a more comfortable balance involves amp and eq settings that would normally leave me expecting to pick pieces of exploded tweeter out of my face, without doing much to separate out the muffled low-end sound. That really is quite a pity: like olden-day 'loudness' switches, it's simply adding volume without bringing out the underlying dynamism that's clearly there but been robbed of chunks of its forcefulness somewhere in translation.

Listening past that, the music itself is pretty good: led by classic riff-strewn Trad Doom chugging along at a comparatively fast tempo, breaking off for some equally energetic guitar solos, and with vocals that run a broad gamut of occasional growls, shouts and shrieks, but mostly settle on clean with significant touches of theatrical Epic-style delivery. Think latterday, Rob Lowe-era, Candlemass with a touch more Tony Iommi in the guitar sound, and you won't be too far off. Most of the time. Gévaudan also have a few tricks up their collective sleeve to spice it up. There's an aggressive groove that sneaks in, particularly on closing track 'Message For The Damned', that's reminiscent of being harangued by post-punk agit-prop bands like Conflict, but could equally be drawing its' influences from later hardcore-inspired Metal such as post-'Arise' Sepultura. That's joined by the odd psychedelic Stoner lead break, from the school of Sleep and Electric Wizard, and all tied together by some impassioned pagan swords'n'barbarians lyrics.

In short, there's plenty happening across the three tracks, and most of it is driven by the charismatic, varied deliveries of vocalist Adam and guitarist Bruce. I'd guess, given the snatches that do stand out against the awkwardly murky bottom-end of the mix, that Andy and David - bass and drums, respectively - add a lot more to the party under normal circumstances. All I can really observe here, though, is that the bass gets a fair crack at times, mostly when riffing along with a satisfyingly deep rumble behind the guitar solos, and there's clearly plenty of actual drumming going on, were it only to be given due prominence and a rightful amount of body.

The net effect is that I really like what the band are doing: they've got interest, diversity, a seriously ballsy front-and-centre approach to rocking out, and a distinct heaviness and aggression. All of which is oh-so-nearly enough to pull 'Message For The Damned' through completely; it's only the lack of percussive punch to match all the good things up front which leaves it falling a bit short of its justifiably-ambitious potential. For the moment, that's just enough monster to rate "Bad Moon" on the beast scale: the material's actually much better than the limitations of its presentation. And as it's pretty much a demo, in the great scheme of things, from a band that's really cut its teeth playing live, one can only expect the studio-work to get better from here.

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Reviewer's rating: 6.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Cursed Undead
2. Lament Of The North
3. Message For The Damned

Duration : Approx. 22 minutes

Visit the Gévaudan bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-12-21 by Mike Liassides
Thermal Mass
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