Gustavo De Beauville - Volume 1
Release Date: February 17, 2014
Record Label: Independently Released
When the first song on an album is called “Release the Kraken,” you pretty much know what you are getting into. Such is the case with Volume 1, the new album from Canadian industrial progressive metal artist Gustavo De Beauville. While the aforementioned “Kraken” references a line from the 1981 fantasy film, Clash of the Titans (as well as from the questionable 2010 remake of that film), it actually sounds more like something that would have been on the soundtrack for xXx, Blade, or some other testosterone-drenched action movie from the early 2000s. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, as no one was really stepping up to give those movies soundtrack awards, and it’s not exactly a recipe for enjoyable music, either. Unfortunately, it’s more or less the template for Volume 1.
That’s not to say that this album is completely without value. De Beauville’s grungy, sludgy guitar playing can have an eerie, trance-like effect that at least makes Volume 1 a worthy collection of background music. Still, at best, Volume 1 is little more than a fleetingly interesting experiment in guitar jamming and music production. De Beauville made the entire album by himself, writing, playing, recording, and producing every note here at his own studio. He plays each role admirably enough, and when his production truly works – like on the drum-machine laced haunt of “Sands of Allure” – it’s easy to imagine the recordings working well as a sampling tape to get De Beauville some production jobs with synth-pop artists or post-hardcore rock bands.
The problem, then, is not the production levels or even the playing, but the compositions themselves. Aside from the occasional break in style – like the string-led “Red Giants” – De Beauville’s songs often sound nearly indistinguishable from one another. He relies on a lot of the same guitar maneuvers throughout (the swift arpeggios in “Jagannath” are almost identical to the guitar parts in the middle of closer, “In Defiance”), and many of his songs are written in the same or similar keys, to the point where you can hum a C# while quickly skipping from one track to the next and you will usually have the correct starting pitch. It’s possible that this is intentional, as it often works best with non-vocal albums like Volume 1 to create one long stream of music that doesn’t necessarily break between tracks. That doesn’t seem to be the case here though, as De Beauville often utilizes fade-outs to truncate his compositions and move onto the next track, leaving this album feeling both repetitive and strangely disjointed. De Beauville might do better writing something akin to a symphony.
Ultimately, Volume 1 is a capable enough musical journey that doesn’t necessarily work as an album you will want to listen to repeatedly. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this disc plays more as a soundtrack – whether for an action film, a sci-fi mystery, or a video game, I’m not sure – than it does as an album. There are still enjoyable moments for listeners to engage with, and the album is so easy to have on in the background – especially in its less aggressive, more experimental moments – that you might add some of the songs to a study playlist or a writing mix. It just isn't a vital standalone set of songs.
The most interesting thing about the disc, though, has nothing to do with the actual music, but with De Beauville himself. About the album’s workmanlike, solo mentality, the musician said: “I feel most alive when creating music. As a self-taught artist I appreciate the effort and dedication it takes to make technically sound recordings. Since I work best alone, necessity has driven me to embrace multiple instruments. It was through approaching these from my own perspective that forged my sound.” This is a composer who built his entire understanding of music on his own, from scratch, and Volume 1 is the sound of him continuing to expand that understanding. It’s not always a riveting listen, and some will certainly find more to like about it than others, but at least the mission statement behind it is a completely respectable and noble one.