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Gévaudan : Litost (EP)

Gévaudan give their Epic/Trad (and more) sound the platform it deserves with this sophomore EP. Now all we need is the debut full-length...

Well, if I'm honest - and I try to be - I was perhaps a little hard on Gévaudan's debut EP. Not in giving credit for the talent on display, but in scoring it rather lower than most aspects of it really deserved. I found the raw and somewhat tinny production was a major sticking factor, and, revisiting it, I still think it lacks the percussive punch needed to give their epic sword-and-sorcery music real depth. Fortunately, the mixing on 'Litost' has stepped up enough to easily make that a rather moot point - it's still quite high on the treble, which is a fair enough aesthetic decision for the style, but now there's a crispness to the percussion section which really gives the drums, particularly, a lot of body and presence. And it's good to see that, once again, they've done a nice job of packaging it up as an entirely self-released CD.

So, 'Litost': a Czech word with no direct English translation, but roughly meaning 'a state of torment caused by the awareness of one's own misery'. Either a bit of a tautology, or a double-whammy of woe, depending on how you want to argue it. Gévaudan clearly like the latter definition, and have set right out to convey it through the medium of good old-fashioned Trad/Epic Doom, seasoned with an eclectic range of influences. It's a boisterous mix of elements that, although quite individual, also flags them with what I'd consider an unmistakably British eccentricity. No bad thing, that, since, like predecessor 'Message For The Damned', this is a three-track offering; unlike it, these are all long compositions, each clocking in at over nine minutes. And tackling them with the same commendable ambition, the band seek to not only keep each song dynamic and varied, but to mix it up between tracks - while, broadly, sticking to a sort of Angel Witch evil-but-not-Satanist brief.

That this largely succeeds is in no small part due to the two major weapons in Gévaudan's armoury: Adam Pirmohamed's wild and varied vocal narratives, and the omnipresent, frequently-shifting fretwork of Bruce Hamilton. No disrespect meant to Andy and Dave, handling bass and drums respectively: they contribute a thorough, solid and imaginative rhythm backing, and the bass often sits riffing an effective stereo counterpoint to the lead, but there's no doubt it's guitar and voice which set and lead the direction. As before, a lot of the riff-heavy sections fall somewhere in the later Candlemass/earlier Sabbath bracket, with links and bridges drawing on either more psychedelic Stoner or harder Heavy Metal, and the occasional interjection of some sludgy distortion.

Opening and closing with sweeping Epic-styled 'Wastes Eternal' and 'Lord Of Decay' (both of which wind up in fiercely groovy psych workouts), centrepiece 'The Ninth Circle' throws a complete flanker into the mix. Obviously based on Dante's frozen Lake Cocytus, reserved for traitors and betrayers, it's a heavy, bluesy number that gives Adam free reign to let loose with a masterfully unhinged performance - reminiscent of early/mid '70s Alice Cooper recitative pieces, on steroids - alternating between ranting madness and broken resignation. Probably the highlight of the EP, but only by a small margin: the ballsier, hard-rocking defiant swagger present in the other tracks is less novel territory, but delivered with a satisfyingly hefty dose of conviction.

Okay, it's still not quite perfect studio work - I could point to a couple of slightly clunky transitions, and a few places where repeated riffs just edge into outstaying their welcome - but, against that, an unsigned band on a limited budget doesn't get many opportunities to practise that side of things. It's to their credit that, with only one intervening digital single between EPs, there's been such a noticeable improvement on that technical side. Compositionally - well, as a frequently-gigging band, all their material since day one has been to the high standard that comes with constant honing and refining in front of an audience, and 'Litost' simply continues to fly that particular flag. Personally, I view Gévaudan as one of the most interesting, talented and diverse bands currently in circulation in the UK - and this EP demonstrates that it really can translate into home listening as well it does live. It'd be nice if somebody would pick up on that and offer a label contract: I really want to hear what they can do with a full-length release...

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Wastes Eternal
2. The Ninth Circle
3. Lord Of Decay

Duration : Approx. 28 minutes

Visit the Gévaudan bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-11-28 by Mike Liassides
Thermal Mass
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