Killers (Fra) - A L'ombre des vautours 4.5/5

Reviewed: 7-11-08


1. L'enfer du dcor
2. Deux bastos dans le cigare
3. Combien de fois?
4. Comprendre
5. Seul dans mon coin
6. No future
7. Faire du mtal
8. Malgr tout
9. Trop tard
10. Absent
11. Novueau monde
12. Un peu de rpit
13. Habemus metal
14. Overkillers
15. Pas de pifi
16. La ronde des couillons
17. Trajectoires
18. Www.Misre
19. Voyeur
20. S.O.S.
21. Latitude ouest
22. Tais-Toi

Good morning, class, and welcome to KILLERS 101. Here's what you need to know about this superb cult band. As Aria is to Russia, as Rage is to Germany, as Mago de Oz is to Spain, as Motorhead is to England, as Ossian is to Hungary, so Killers is to France. Think long-running. Think uncompromising in their artistic vision. Think prolific. And think extremely talented and distinctive. That's Killers in a nutshell. 'A L'ombre des vautours' is their 11th studio album altogether, but there have also been a pair of live CDs, an alternate English-language version of one CD (2000's amazing 'Mauvaises graines', which was re-titled 'Killing games' for the English-speaking world) and a remake/facelift of an old 80s CD with their 2001 line-up. So we're dealing with a legendary band whose catalogue spanning 24 years casts a long shadow indeed. Amazingly, though, for an act with such a lengthy resume, Killers have taken a page out of Saxon's book in that their most recent few CDs (starting with the aforementioned 'Mauvaises graines') are actually their finest efforts. Rather than stagnating, they're actually getting better with age. The bandleader and only original member is singer/guitarist Bruno Dolheguy. There's been significant turnover through the years among the other line-up slots, but the current configuration of this quartet from the French Basque country has been fixed since 2001.

Those seeking an obvious, easy comparison band will be stymied, because (much like the bands listed above) Killers have carved out a distinctive, unique sound that may share similarities with certain other acts, but that ultimately copies no one. Honestly, Killers have boiled aspects of traditional metal, thrash, old punk, power metal, and even AC/DCish hard rock into a cohesive and appetizing stew. In my mind, there are 3 critical, defining elements to Killers' music. First, the band keeps a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal at most times, unleashing torrents of unadulterated speed. Sometimes the speed feels like Teutonic thrash a la Kreator, sometimes it feels like melodic speed power a la Not Fragile or classic Agent Steel, sometimes like punky amphetamine-fueled Motorhead, and (on rare occasions, if you're listening attentively) even a touch of Dragonforce happy speed. But the point is this: If you like it fast, you'll love Killers. 2nd, the backbone of Killers' sound is the rough-hewn, half-shouted, gruff French-language vocals of Dolheguy. Between the harshness of the French language and the slightly Tom Angelripper-inflected tone of Dolheguy, the combination is fairly abrasive, but it works very well in the context of Killers' all-out aggressive speed assault. 3rd, there's the guitar duo of Dolheguy and Thierry Andrieu. These guys are amazingly good, whether it's dishing out the precise speed-metal rifferama or delving into highly melodic, memorable and sometimes even playful lead breaks and harmony lines. The guitar work is technically proficient, imaginative, versatile and showcases a melodic flair (incorporating classical themes and other familiar melodies at times just to keep the listener alert) that this music desperately needs in order to avoid becoming monotonous and one-dimensional. Like many Killers CDs, 'A L'ombre des vautours' is a guitar lover's dream, just loaded with killer riffs and melodic ear candy.

All of that said, 'A L'ombre des vautours' is a somewhat daunting piece of work, because it features a mind-boggling 22 tracks (including an intro, a couple of instrumentals, and 19 "real songs") clocking in at 69 minutes. That's like super-sizing your happy meal in a big way, as the band have essentially compressed 2 full CDs worth of material into a 1-CD package. I'm not complaining because there's not an abundance of filler and Killers' quality control is impeccable; nonetheless, the fact remains that it sure is a hell of a lot to digest. At some point, one's senses are pummeled into submission by the powerful, unvaried Killers attack, so only the most intrepid and valiant of metalheads will still be bloodied and unbowed after 22 songs of Killers' bombardment. Don't let that fact scare you though. You wouldn't be reading this site if you weren't sufficiently intrepid and valiant to handle this CD. Besides, as mentioned, the quality level is high, and things never deteriorate into boredom. Highlights are scattered all over this damn thing, but the 2 most obvious songs to mention are the surprising cover versions smack dab in the middle of the running order. "Habemus metal" is Manowar's "Black wind fire and steel" delivered at warp speed with French-language lyrics, and "Overkillers" is a similar treatment of Motorhead's evergreen "Overkill" (duh). You are guaranteed to fall out of your chair, either from bemused surprise or from the sheer ass-kickery of it all, when these songs blast out of your speakers at mega-high velocity for the first time. Brilliant.

The rub is that Killers CDs (like most output on the Brennus imprint) are notoriously difficult to track down. But 'A L'ombre es vautours' is worth it. As high as Killers set the bar with 'Mauvaises graines' and 2002's 'Habemus metal', they've exceeded it this time around. While I need to give this CD more listens to absorb everything that's going on, it is distinctly possible that Dolheguy & Co. have just released the most accomplished Killers CD ever. How many bands can say that 24 years and 11 studio albums into their careers? All hail Killers, my nominee for 2008's Lifetime Achievement Award. Let the killing games begin!




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