France’s ADX have been rockin’ for a long time. Their first album, ‘Execution,’ dates back to 1985, but they are perhaps best known internationally for their ‘Weird Visions’ album released by Noise Records in 1991, their first and only foray into English lyrics. There’ve been a couple of starts and stops along the way, but 2016 finds these sons of Paris not only alive but thriving. ‘Non Serviam’ marks the band’s 10th studio album altogether, and while it is self-released, everything about it is pro-grade quality, from the massive production to the striking cover artwork to the well-designed booklet and killer band photography. Unlike many of their contemporaries whose modern-day incarnation features only one original member (if that), ADX sports no fewer than three founding members (vocalist Phil Grelaud, drummer Didier “Dog” Bouchard, and guitarist Pascal Betov) on ‘Non Serviam,’ joined by a pair of relative newcomers (guitarist Nicklaus Bergen and bassist Julien Rousseau) to round out the lineup card.
It is an unfortunate reality that new albums from many reformed ‘80s bands are something of a mixed bag. For every example of an inspired return to glory by a legacy act, one can easily think of one whose modern-day efforts sound like a pale, diluted copy of what made them great in the first place. Fortunately, ADX fall squarely in the former camp this time around. In part, this is probably because ‘Non Serviam’ is no comeback album. The band have already been back for a while, recording worthy albums every two or three years since 2008. This isn’t their first rodeo and they’ve had time to build their confidence, find their path, and refine their sound for a new millennium. Another contributing factor is that ADX have not attempted to create a throwback ‘80s metal album here. ‘Non Serviam’ sounds very much like a contemporary heavy metal album, not some relic of the past. What ADX offer the listener is a heady mix of traditional metal, power metal and thrash metal, not altogether removed from the style of German bands like Rage (circa ‘The Devil Strikes Again’), Mystic Prophecy, or Paragon, and comparable in some respects to fellow Frenchmen Lonewolf (albeit with a greatly diminished Running Wild influence). The 11-song, 48-minute affair hits hard, with mostly fast-paced, powerful tracks featuring in-your-face guitar riffs tailor-made for headbanging. Nor is ‘Non Serviam’ a monochromatic album; to the contrary, there is plenty of melody on hand. Notwithstanding the language barrier (vocalist Phil sings exclusively in his native tongue), the choruses are eminently hummable throughout and have a propensity to worm their way into your brain after just a couple of listens. All the material is strong, but tracks 5 and 6, “Non Serviam” and “L’Irlandaise” respectively, stick out as particularly magnificent gems in the ADX arsenal.
Sure, the French-language lyrics may be a turnoff for some, and the gritty, half-shouted vocals are somewhat limited, as Phil gets by more on attitude and heart than anything else. But if well-written, crushingly heavy metal with thrash tendencies performed by 30+ year veterans appeals to you, then you owe it to yourself to check out ‘Non Serviam.’ My take is that ADX have absolutely earned respect, much like their countrymen Killers, not only for their longevity but also for maintaining high quality levels, allowing the sound of the band to evolve somewhat (but not too much), and releasing an album that is highly competitive in today’s crowded marketplace. As if that’s not enough, the booklet includes a brief dedication (in French) “to those who fell in Paris on 11/13/2015.” ADX are a Paris-based band, so this tribute is most appropriate indeed. Classy move by a classy act.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~