Look, I’m a typical, mono-lingual American. Sadly that means I take a pass on some great music in different languages. The only full album I own in a language other than English is Sonrisa Salvaje by DLR. I tell you this to illustrate how much I dig Apocalypso by Sortilège. It smashed my language bias on the strength of our common language, metal.
Apocalypso is a buzzsaw, starting with the album opener “Poseidon.” It snarls out of the gate. I love a first track that builds up slowly, Clément Rouxel’s stripped-down drum intro, riffs from the two guitar attack of Bruno Ramos and Olivier Spitzer, followed by a classic metal scream from Christian “Zouille” Augustin. “Poseidon” makes it clear: you’re in for a fine traditional metal album.
Back for the Attack
Through the ’80s, Sortilège thrived in the metal scene in France. They opened for Def Leppard in their hometown, Paris. In the 80s they released an EP and two albums. The debut album Métamorphose is a hidden gem. It fit right into the era in a similar vein as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, and Crimson Glory. The album includes English recordings, but I think the original French ones are better—compare “Majesté” to “Majesty”. The 1986 follow-up Larmes De Héros takes them in a slightly different direction, a little more polished but is also fantastic. But that was it for Sortilège. They broke up after their second album.
Back for the attack in 2019, Zouille put together a band to play a reunion show at the Keep It True Festival. It went so well that Verycords offered Sortilège a record deal. The first order of business was to re-record some classic tracks and add two new ones to 2021’s aptly named Phoenix.
Apocalypso is the first album of all new material from Sortilège in 37 years. The band creates a rich, layered, and classic metal sound. Zouille, Bruno Ramos and Olivier Spitzer handle guitars, Sébastien Bonnet plays bass and Clément Rouxel hammers the drums. The authenticity of the classic metal sound is legit in large part because Zouille lived it.
The Universal Language of Metal
So how’d this album hook me? Quite simply, it spoke the universal language of metal.
Check out the epic single “Derrière les portes de Babylone” for a real treat. It encapsulates the sprawling metal sound on Apocalypso. It’s got a bit of power metal, NWOBH, and progressive metal. It’s Iron Maiden-esque, but not in a clone way, more in the creative approach to a sprawling song. The collaboration with Myrath adds a whole other level with their distinct Tunisian progressive metal contribution to the track. Another band to check out!
Where “Derrière les portes de Babylone” was on the more epic side, the second single “Vampire” is straightforward rock and roll. It’s a smoking, guitar-forward track that sounds huge thanks to the three guitar attack from Zouille, Ramos and Spitzer. The laugh at the end says it all.
Another standout track features the French metal stalwart Stéphane Buriez from the thrash/death metal band Loudblast. “La parade des centaures” fits the band perfectly, melding their classic sound with something heavy and harsh. Listen to this and you will bang your head.
From the Firepower era Judas Priest approach—complete with Halford-level vocals—on the huge track “Poseidon” to the heavy riffs of “Atilla”, you won’t find a bad song.
I’ve made lots of comparisons to other bands in this review, but the biggest influence I hear on this album is vintage Sortilège. With Apocalypso they tapped into the energy of vintage 1980s Sortilège. Back then, if you liked Saxon, Queensryche, Metal Church, or Mercyful Fate I would’ve recommended this band to you. I suppose I still do.
The New Wave of Traditional Metal torch is shining bright now, held high by bands like Night Demon, Lady Beast, Haunt, Seven Sisters, Silver Talon, and Spellbook. In their rebirth, Sortilège joins them. Do yourself a favour and get this album
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Also, find more of my CGCM reviews here: Dave Wilks
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