Lonewolf - Unholy paradise 3.5/5
1. Stronger than evil (Pagan story pt.2)
4. Wild and free
5. Snake in Eden
6. Behind the cross
7. Unholy paradise
8. Medieval witchcraft
10. Erik the Red
France is not generally regarded as a hotbed of heavy metal glory. Sure, the land of the Marseillaise, the Eiffel Tower, grey poupon and Pepe LePew can boast a few first-tier bands, including reigning thrash kings Killers, power metal veterans Nightmare, and symphonic upstarts Fairyland, but in general the French metal quotient seems quite low. Fortunately, the mighty Lonewolf have set out to change all that.
Lonewolf's 2001 debut, 'March into the arena', was a solid slab of true metal, heavily influenced by the classic German juggernauts, including most notably Rock'n'Rolf and his rogue (not vogue) band of merry metal pirates in Running Wild. The French quartet's sophomore platter kicks everything up a notch, remaining firmly entrenched in the same style but developing a bit more of their own identity. The nods to vintage Running Wild still surface from time to time in the riffing and guitar melodies, as you'll hear from the first 30 seconds of opener "Stronger than evil". I also hear some 'Number in the Beast'-era Maiden flavor creeping in. The difference with this 2nd CD is that instead of trying to copy their idols, as they did on 'March into the arena', Lonewolf now filter those influences through their own sound, creating a more cohesive, professional and ultimately entertaining piece of work. Lonewolf even salute their own sovereign history in "1789", a tune about the French Revolution and the fall of the Bastille. The result is a 47 minute celebration of true metal, boasting fist-pumping anthems, bucketloads of cool fretwork, and brilliantly capturing an old-school vibe in the performances, tin-can production values, and thin guitar tone. Best of all, the songwriting is instantly memorable, instantly cool, and has enough detail work to hold up after repeated listens. I can't get enough of this stuff, and Lonewolf do it better than many of the troo acts prowling and howling in the underground these days.
The knock I always hear about these guys is the vocals, but I don't buy it. Sure, vocalist Jens Borner will never win any awards for his gruff delivery or his less-than-perfect English enunciation. So what? He sings from the heart and with conviction, plus he can carry a tune to the extent necessary to pull off his conservative vocal lines. I'd call him a cross between Sonke Lau (Unrest) and a lesser Buddy Kohlrausch (Dark at Dawn), so if you can handle those guys, Borner should pose no impediment to your enjoyment of this CD. For myself, I crinkled my nose at the voice at first, but by the 2nd or 3rd listen I was singing along with him at the top of my lungs while trying to avoid sloshing beer as I swayed my mug to and fro. Besides, these songs have a way of sucking the listener in, without regard to the vocals.
As evidenced by photographs and liner notes in the booklet, these guys are canonized in Greece, and with good cause. Lonewolf have the passion, the enthusiasm and the skills to ascend to the top of the true metal heap. So instead of joining the haters and slamming 'Unholy paradise' on vocal or originality grounds, I'll turn up the volume to 11, grab another Killian's from the fridge, tighten the straps on my spiked wristband, and revel in the glory.
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