Grandval is is a French project, led by Henri Vaugraund who started as a bass player at the age of 14. His first album was released in 2016 entitled A Ciel Ouvert, as a one-man-band and multi-instrumentalist (vocals, bass, acoustic - and electric guitars, keyboards and choir). This music spanning a time of 20 years of making music. Now he has decided to polish his demos for a CD release. Originally the songs were sung in English, but Henri thought that the French language was more appropriate to suit his music. In 2020 Grandval produced a second album entitled Descendu Sur Terre, the second part of a trilogy about the elements. This new release is focussed on nature and the madness of mankind. On this second effort Grandval has turned into a two piece formation featuring Henri Vaugrand (vocals, bass, guitars and programming and Olivier Bonneau (keyboards, vocal harmonies, bass pedals and guitars, on track 11). Henri also invited a range of guest musicians, including Jean-Pierre Louveton (Nemo, JPL and Wolfspring) on guitars (3-6, 9 and 10), Mellotron and programming (8) and vocal harmonies (6).
In general the music by Grandval is hard to pigeonhole, it sounds like an adventurous progressive blend of several styles. Most of the compositions alternate between dreamy, bombastic eruptions, and dynamic accellarations. This is topped with a tasteful colouring by the keyboards (from flashy synthesizer flights and sumptuous Mellotron choir sound to tender piano and soaring strings) and guitar (often harder-edged with blistering and biting soli, but also some acoustic guitar). The undertone in the tracks is often a bit melancholy or ominous, due to the subject of this album. The vocals are pleasant, but a bit thin in the more powerful songs and parts.
The only instrumental composition is the first one entitled Exondation, it is also my favourite on this album. It starts dreamy with soaring strings and mellow synthesizer flights, simply wonderful, then moving electric guitar with howling runs and choir sound (evoking Eloy and Pink Floyd). Halfway some sound effects, followed by heavy guitar work and powerful drums. Finally a church organ sound and volume pedal guitar, in a mellow climate.
The album concludes with an inspired cover from the legendary French prog band Atoll entitled La Maison De Men-Tää (originally released on Rock Puzzle, 1979), which comes as an additional CD bonus track.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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