2021 (Anesthetize Productions)
Erewän is the project of French multi-instrumentalist Etienne Gras who has adopted this name as an artist. Do not look for the meaning of the word as Erewän is a product of Gras’s brain. The name is well chosen with its Celtic/Breton sound. Not only does it perfectly cover the musical charge, Erewän could also have been a character from a Tolkien book and that is the atmosphere that Gras wants to create. Together with the red artwork, the look of this sympathetic debut album is already made. Now, of course, the key question is whether it is all that good musically.
In order to be able to answer that question, some information about the musician is in order. Initially Gras is under the spell of blues rock after which he comes into contact with the music of Iron Maiden, Toto, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin and many more. However, the musical omnivore always has his focus on the electric and acoustic guitar and thanks to a few cover bands he ends up in folk rock. He even tries it on his own (one singer, one acoustic guitar).
The meeting with Alexandre Lamia of prog band Nine Skies yields a first demo CD and then the debut album “How Will All This End?” is released, where Lamia is a guest in two songs. He also is partly responsible for the recording process and he has done the mixing and mastering. In addition, violinist Eric Bouillette also is present for a guest role.
One of the most enjoyable facets of the album is that it sounds so lighthearted, except for the lyrics. “How Will All This End?” contains only accessible folk with a nice melodic layer of prog. The nine songs are nowhere heavy on the stomach and constantly show a well-dosed combination of acoustic and electric guitars, atmospheric keyboard chords, flute parts and moody playing on piano and violin with a not unpleasant amount of vocals added to it. Gras does have the typical accent of a Frenchman who sings English lyrics. At least it doesn’t bother me, because his singing is okay.
His qualities are obviously in playing the guitar. The album is full of beautiful acoustic performances with delicious playing on the electric. It can also come out so nicely because the compositions and the arrangements shown are good. All songs have a soft underlay of virtual keys, flutes and strings while MIDI-drums and various sounds are used. In addition, whistles played by Gras can regularly be heard, so that the music is reminiscent of Red Jasper and now that we are comparing: I also hear a touch of Mike Oldfield.
Instrumental Rising Sun On The Shore, the atmospheric opener, sets the tone of the album immediately. What follows is the infectious Childhoods that in terms of text points out the big difference it makes where you are born. The fiery guitar theme that guest player Lamia plays here lifts the song above itself. Great class. The subsequent Walk Away is a nice sneeze in the ear. It shouldn’t spoil the fun. Well, fun?
Very impressive is Headline where piano and strings enhance the atmosphere. It’s about a school shooter who you hear approching, hear the door opening, hear shots firing, etc. It is a terrifying passage with menacing violins.
As is the case on most folk albums, there are also some songs with a swirling rhythm of course. The title of The Banshee’s Keening already suggests so. It is a cheerful sounding song with some live feel at the end. Also beautiful, Witches Of The Middle Ages which has a dark, subdued atmosphere. Remarkable is Twist Of Fate, because of his excellent guitar solo at the end. Yet “How Will All This End?” is not the CD to be praised for its moments. Evil’s In Us is another beautiful contribution to the overall atmosphere of the album and the instrumental closing song Highlands as well. It leaves you with a good feeling.
From the day I first heard “How Will All This End?”, it is stuck under my skin and still doesn’t itches after many listens. Of course, an album with virtual drums and accentuating vocals has all appearances against it. Etienne Gras, however, is a brave musician who has followed his heart. More should follow his example.
© Dick van der Heijde 2022