(Emanes Metal 2017)
As dawn rises over 2017, Hurlement are doing their part to ensure that traditional heavy metal hits the ground running in the new year. You see, the veteran French quartet are releasing their third album, ‘La Mort Sera Belle,’ via Emanes Metal Records on January 7, 2017. Hurlement (whose name may be translated as “Scream” or “Howl”) already set the bar high with their ‘Terreur et Tourment’ opus in 2013, and now they strike back even harder with ‘La Mort Sera Belle,’ which is French for ‘Death Will Be Beautiful.’
Hurlement are among those delightfully unrepentant (or “repentless,” in Kerry King-speak) old-school heavy metal bands that proudly wear their influences on their sleeves or, perhaps more accurately, their battered and worn denim patch jackets. Musical cues are drawn from the likes of Manowar, Running Wild and the classic French bands like Killers, ADX (whose guitarist Pascal “Betov” turns in a fine guest solo on one track), Sortilege and so on. Those who love the strains of underground metal epitomized by the likes of Sacred Steel, Majesty, Lonewolf, Ravensire, Grey Wolf and Paragon will surely find themselves right at home on ‘La Mort Sera Belle.’ That said, the magic of Hurlement lies in the way they combine those influences into a cohesive amalgamation that enables them to stand out even in a very crowded musical marketplace.
Guitarist Francois Porte is an accomplished riff merchant, and has a knack for playing these wonderfully catchy melodies and melodic themes that hearken back to the masters while remaining powerful as hell. And vocalist/lyricist Alexis Roy-Petit is the band’s secret weapon. As per usual for Hurlement, Alexis sings roughly half the songs in French and the other half in virtually accent-free English (the split is exactly four songs of each). My French sucks, but I can decipher enough to tell that his lyrics, while traversing fairly typical war/battle/death themes, are far more interesting than the norm. The same goes for his English lyrics, which are deeper and better constructed than those of many native speakers (sample line: “My hand cannot falter, my will cannot shatter / Though fear may cut deeper than swords”). Alexis’s voice may be something of a polarizing force for some, because it has a certain roughness and abrasiveness (not entirely unlike, say, Bruno Dolheguy of Killers) coupled with an undeniable penchant for ear-piercing screams that teeter on the brink of uncontrolled chaos. To my ears, the vocals fit the powerful, rough-hewn, heroic music and lyrics brilliantly, but your mileage may vary. Add to Francois and Alexis a mighty rhythm section (consisting of Francois’s brother Pierre on drums and Didier le Gorg on bass) and a full, crushing production job, and Hurlement are truly a force to be reckoned with.
The eight-song, 47-minute ‘La Mort Sera Belle’ also features some of Hurlement’s finest songwriting to date. Instantly memorable opener “Grenadiers” hits like a ten-ton hammer with riffs and melodies to die for, and the three and a half minute “Guerrier” (the album’s only sub-5 minute track) just flat-out rips from start to finish. The whole album is strong, but its high-water mark is undoubtedly the closing “Brothers in Arms” trilogy, which spans more than 18 minutes. The trilogy begins by telling the tale of a band of
brothers dying on the battlefield, via the locked-in Joey DeMaio-ish stomp of “Die Together.” Then, the fallen brothers say farewell to each other in the unexpectedly subdued “See You in Hell,” which begins as a stab at those legendary quiet Manowar interludes made famous by songs like “March for Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death).” Finally, the trilogy concludes in the best possible way, with the fallen combatants being reborn in pain and blood as demon warriors coming across the Styx to torment and pillage anew in the adrenalin-pumping feast of “Demon Warriors,” easily my favorite track on the album. “Demon Warriors” perfects the urgency and might of fast Manowar, especially in the simply exquisite pre-chorus section, which makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every single time.
The ink isn’t even dry on most people’s “best of 2016” lists and already Hurlement have staked their claim for inclusion on next year’s honor rolls. ‘La Mort Sera Belle’ is glorious, powerful, triumphant, ballsy and true. It pays dutiful homage to the masters while injecting enough individualistic flair that it doesn’t come across as a cheap copy. And it proves that even in 2017, old-fashioned heavy metal can sound fresh, vibrant and alive. Death may not be beautiful, but this album certainly is.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~