From The Vault – Sortilege – ‘Larmes De Heros’ (1986)
Image lifted from Amazon.com. (I believe the artwork is based on this rather fine example of 5th century BC Greek bronzework)
A few preliminary notes on translation – Sortilege means ‘magic spell, charm’, and ‘larmes de heros’ means ‘tears for heroes’
The above album was discovered during a lengthy session in the Sound Machine. After quickly working through the Metal and Punk racks (lots of Poison and such like, one copy of Never Say Die, a couple of Y&T albums, LOTS of AC/DC), I moved on to the minefield that is the alphabetized section that constitutes 70% of the shop’s wares. That said, it wasn’t all that bad this time around. I found the following interesting records:
Trash – Burnin’ Rock
T-Rex – Electric Warrior. It’s a fantastic record, but the sleeve looked pretty chewed up, which doesn’t bode well for the vinyl inside.
Some random French metal/rock acts that I can’t recall the name of
And then, Sortilege emerged from the field. I had no idea who the band were, so I looked them up. A favourable Metal Archives entry appeared, as did a very favourable ‘valuation’ of sorts from discogs.com. So yea, what the hell? I went for it – it is in very good nick, and someone had kindly provided written lyrics with the album!
Upon closer inspection, it emerged that the hand-written lyrics within the sleeve were for a number of Sortilege tracks, some from Metamorphose, some from Larmes De Heros, and one random throw-in – Vulcain’s ‘Soldat’. Yea, quite, who? Well, see below:
Surprisingly good, I reckon.
Returning to Sortilege, the internet seems very keen on them – very highly rated, even the ‘best France has to offer in terms of heavy metal’. Well, let me say this – if they aren’t the best, then my word the best must be quite something, for I absolutely love Larmes De Heros. It should have been much MUCH bigger than it ever was back in 1986, that fated year, the apex of metal’s achievements to date. For a start, the production is absolutely brilliant, especially for a small label (the band seem to have been licensed to SPV and Warner Bros, but the details of such arrangements are hazy). The drums kick forth, the vocals soar, the riffs and bass are perfectly balanced.
The musicians are all plainly accomplished at their art, all delivering plenty to the overall palette. The vocalist though…wow, French Halford is going a bit far, but he’s still mighty fucking fine! Some of the highs he gets and the melodies he achieves are wonderful.
The songwriting is brilliant – proper old school heavy metal, buckets of hooks and licks, tasty riffs and delightful solos. The lyrical content, well, who knows, and frankly who cares when the music is this damn good. They could be singing about drowning kittens for all I care – I would still raise the horns at their glory. That is what this album is – a glorious achievement by a underrated, nay, unrecognised band. They have a knack for memorable tunes, cracking vocal lines, inspirational song structures and the occasional bit of je ne sais quoi, such as one enhanced high toward the end of the final song on the A-side, which is followed by a big drum fill. Just perfection. Oh yes, that track starts with cowbell, then into riffery, then into lead, I mean, what more do you want?!
If you need any further convincing, check out the below. CHAASSSEE LE DRAAAAAGON!
5/5, no question.