Hurlement - Terreur et tourment 4/5
2. The harvester
3. Prince noir
4. The sign of the beast
5. The song of steel
6. Dogue de broceliande
7. Last days of summer
8. Brothers of the watch
9. Tigres volants
10. A feu et a sang
Carrying on in the proud, rich tradition of French true metal bands like Sortilege, Killers and Lonewolf (amidst scores of others) are Hurlement (whose name is the French word for “Scream”). Their 2009 debut, ‘De sang et d’acier’, was favorably received in the European classic metal underground, but the new Hurlement CD, ‘Terreur et tourment’, released earlier this year on the fine Emanes Metal label with a striking J.P Fournier cover painting, surpasses the debut in all areas and reveals a band that is coming into its prime. Before we proceed any further, however, let’s be clear: Hurlement occupy a narrow sonic niche. They are not for everyone. This is hammer-down, blazing-guitar, old-school, screaming, fist-banging-mania, pure metal for the Keep It True/Up the Hammers crowd. If that’s not your thing, please stop reading now.
There. Now that the wimps and posers have well and truly left the hall, let us continue with the review, shall we? To me, the clearest hallmark of Hurlement’s sound is the dancing, killer, speedy guitar melodies that axe-wielder Francois Porte weaves throughout most songs. They don’t sound like recycled Running Wild melodies (at least most of them don’t), but they definitely put me in mind of Rock’n’Rolf’s merry seafaring crew or even Andre Olbrich’s work in Blind Guardian at times. These are the kinds of guitar lines that carry a song effortlessly, the kind that an audience can latch onto and sing along with, the sort that traipse around in the deep, dark recesses of your consciousness long after the CD has ended or the concert is over, whether you’re fast asleep at 4 a.m. or sitting at your desk in the office on a humdrum Tuesday afternoon. Countrymen Lonewolf would be a valid reference point, but Hurlement also branch out into other true metal realms by showing their obvious love for Manowar with a macho, chest-pounding vibe that fits the music like an iron fist in a metal glove.
Unlike many of their countrymen, who write exclusively in their native tongue or in English, Hurlement shift easily between languages. The 9 proper songs are divided almost equally, with 4 in English and 5 in French. Multilingual vocalist Alexis the Warnabot works as a translator in his day job, and has an expansive English vocabulary that would shame most Americans, so he is equally comfortable with French and English lyrics. If guitarist Francois Porte pens the lyrics, he does so in French, whereas Alexis writes the texts for the English-language tunes. The resulting effect is actually very cool. For spoiled American heavy metal fans who want every metal band in the world to sing in English, you never have to wait longer than 1-2 songs to get an English-language track. And the interspersed French-language songs have an additional harsh quality to them because of the language that works exceedingly well in small doses.
What makes ‘Terreur et tourment’ stand out is the strength and consistency of the songwriting. To be sure, ‘De sang et d’acier’ had some outstanding highlights (such as “Ordalie”, “Dernier combat”, and “Mercenaire”), but this CD pretty much crushes from beginning to end. Every song is memorable, from the speed-fueled tracks to the anthems to the big epic (“A feu et a sang”) at the end. I love the fact that Hurlement have experimented with Manowar-style dynamics here, injecting quiet, clean-sung parts from time to time to give the audience a breather before drummer Pierre Porte fires up the double-bass pedals and all hell breaks loose (see “The song of steel”). Rather than go track by track to extol the virtues of each song, let’s shine the spotlight on my favorite, “Brothers of the watch”. Maybe Game of Thrones lyrics are already overdone in metal. I don’t know and I don’t care. Songs about Jon Snow and his black brothers who stand watch on the wall are cool as hell. The night is dark and full of terrors, my friends. Lyrics aside, the song is insanely catchy, perhaps the most overt Manowar-influenced arrangement on display, with a gang-shouted “we watch!” in the chorus that works brilliantly in the live arena. (I know because the first time I heard this song was when I saw Hurlement perform it live at Up the Hammers in Athens a few months ago.)
When the hurly burly’s done, what remains is that ‘Terreur et tourment’ is a killer slab of unadulterated true metal that is enthusiastically recommended to fans of the genre. Not only are Hurlement firmly atop their game and competitive with any other underground act in this style of music, but they are interesting and entertaining people who are fun to go out drinking with in Greece if the opportunity ever presents itself. They live and breathe this stuff and have done so for many years. So by all means, mon frère, support our French metal brothers – these guys deserve it.
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