Production can make or break a band or a disc. Witness some of the largest-selling titles in recording history: remember that a number of them feature slick production and songs that are more studio wizardry than raw artistic inspiration. (You know the ones I’m talking about here.) Of course, certain records have moved major units or launched a few million bands and have been made on the quick. The first Zeppelin album is rumored to have been recorded in 24 hours and the same has also been said of the debut by Black Sabbath. While neither of those are ultra-slick, they still sound fantastic and I can’ say that either one loses one performance in the mix.

Unfortunately, big production often requires big money, something a lot of bands come up short on, especially early in their career. Such is the case with France’s Holy Graal, who’s debut EP, Just A Signal suffers in the area of production. Though the band­ ­consisting of Frederic Guionnet (guitars), Frederic Isnard (vocals and bass), Gil Pinate (keyboards), Fatima Taamallah (vocals), and Cyril Tosquellas (drums)­­serves up a mixture of metal and progressive (think the best of early Iron Maiden and late Gentle Giant), the best parts of this disc get lost in the murky mix. This is too bad because it’s obvious that the band has talent. Guionnet’s guitar playing is often inspired, fiery, and Tosquella’s drumming proves he’s no slouch on his instrument, either. The vocals are strong, though sometimes a little unclear, but they prove to be the least of the problems here. So what is the greatest problem?

Well, the one thing that also seems the band’s greatest asset: Pinatel’s keyboards. Quite simply, they’re too loud. They often drown out the rest of the band during some of the more interesting time and tempo changes. Compound that with the fact that Toquella’s drums (although played well) sound as though he was forced to record them in a small room five miles outside the studio, and you begin to feel like giving up on this hard-working band.

Still, all is not lost. I really do like this band and what they have to say and there are some decent compositions here. “Birds” and “Now You Understand” show a good deal of promise while “Global Awareness,” given a little more development, could easily become the band’s best-known tune. With a little time and a little more money, this band could easily find time to go back into the studio, give it all another try, prove what they really have to offer, and send more than just a signal.

Bottom line? If you like a little prog with your metal or a little metal with your prog, you might want to check this out.

Reviewed by:
Jedd Beaudoin ,