Holy Graal - Just A Signal ...
Birds (4:45), Insane (5:15), Now You Understand (3:58), Global Awareness (9:12)
I have to say that it does not happen all that often, but here is once
more a CD that I am sure I will play regularly after having written this
review as well. Holy Graal's demo Just A Signal... contains some fine tunes
which make me look forward to their first full-length album.
thing about this French band is that its line-up of Frédéric Guionnet (guitars),
Frédéric Isnard (bass, lead vocals), Gil Pinatel (keyboards), Fatima Taamallah
(vocals) and Cyrill Tosquellas (drums) has been the same since 1989, but that
they have only released some demo tapes and this demo CD (from 1999!) during that
time. The chemistry does obviously work, otherwise I do not think people would
stay together for such a long time, but why then did they not get their behinds
into a studio sooner to record a proper album? This question is all the more pressing
since their eclectic music is interesting enough to appeal to a bigger audience.
Anyway, the band seem to have signed with Musea
Records recently, so let us hope that this situation will change soon!
The four tracks on the album are rather dissimilar in atmosphere. Whereas the
main theme of Birds consists of straightforward rock, the music in Now
You Understand leans heavily toward The Prodigy's Fat Of The Land
album. The final track does even contain some heavy Middle-Eastern influences.
But those are not the only influences you can expect to encounter on this CD.
Birds starts off with some mysterious keyboard sounds, not unlike the
intro of Genesis' Follow You Follow Me, after which the song jumps
into a Peter Gun-like part, which temporarily erupts into bits of Black
Sabbath's Paranoid. Next we come to a section where the keyboard/guitar
combination brings Marillion (Misplaced Childhood era) to mind,
we pass by early 80's U2 guitars and a deliciously huge sounding wall of
strings, which leads us back to the Peter Gun/Paranoid mixture.
third track, Now You Understand, immediately appealed to me. I mentioned
that it reminded me of The Prodigy, which some of you may not consider
as a positive thing in a prog song. Well, the hauntingly fast pace of the track
also gave me some strong spacerock vibes. Hawkwind and especially Omnia
Opera (the way they use the flanger effect) came to mind, whereas the guitars
in the calmer intermezzos gave me the feeling that IQ's Mike Holmes
been in on the project.
Global Awareness is, with its 9:12 minutes,
the longest track on the album. The song sounds as if it could have been the soundtrack
of a movie; something like The Mummy maybe, considering the Middle-Eastern
singing and musical scales used in it. Once more, we encounter some juicy keyboard
sections (bringing both Genesis' Trick Of The Tail and Calling
All Stations albums to mind), and on top of that a great guitar solo played
in a way that can make a snake come a-wiggling out of its basket. The only things
I dislike about this song are the slightly too long outtro and the fact that it
ends with a fade-out; otherwise a great track!
The funny thing with the vocals
is that they sound very American, but that they appear to be quite accented
when you listen more closely. This is therefore an area that could do with some
improvement, I think. Isnard's voice sounds very much like Axl Rose's (of
Guns 'N' Roses fame) in the first two songs, but a bit more like Ozzy
Osbourne's in the other two. The combination of Isnard's male vocals with
the female ones of Taamallah works rather well and brings the Finnish outfit Five
Fifteen to mind.
All in all, Holy Graal's Just A Signal... has achieved
the effect a demo is basically made for - to attract people's attention and to
get them into a "we want more" kind of mood. I certainly have become interested
and do want to hear more from this band! I just hope it is not going to take them
as many years as it took them to come to this demo CD until I do. Recommended
to people who are into the heavier side of prog and are open-minded enough to
like Middle-Eastern influences, spacerock-like bits and Axle Rose/Ozzy Osbourne-kind
Conclusion: 8- out of 10