Chances are, the French band Killers have not popped up on your radar screen in sometime, if ever. That’s a shame. Killers’ history dates back all the way to 1982, and during the intervening years they have released no fewer than 14 unique studio albums, plus a couple of remakes/alternate versions and a fistful of live albums. The band are now (and always have been) led by guitarist / vocalist Bruno Dolheguy, but the other two core members (bassist Patrick Oliver and guitarist Thierry Andrieu) have been onboard since the late 1990s, so this is hardly a one-man show. Killers play a brand of speedy old-school traditional heavy metal with elements of thrash and gruff (but still semi-sung and definitely charismatic) French-language vocals. A rough analogy would be if Motorhead were Frenchmen who played fast all the time and had a flair for NWoBHM melodic sensibility. Killers have been going through a creative renaissance of late, as ‘Le Baiser de la Mort’ (which translates as ‘The Kiss of Death’) is their third studio album since 2012, with two live albums also coming out in the interim. So if you’re unfamiliar with this institution of French metal excellence, there’s no time like the present to make their acquaintance.
Upon receiving my copy of ‘Le Baiser de la Mort,’ I had two primary concerns. First, what’s with there being only 7 songs? After all, Killers is (mostly) known for short, punchy, intense three-minute tunes, including most famously the 22 tracks that populated their classic neckbreaking ‘A L’Ombre des Vautours’ album from 2007. Second, would Killers’ creative well have run dry with this being their third album since 2012? Both worries were laid to rest immediately. With respect to the former, ‘Le Baiser de la Mort’ is indeed a full-length release with a playing time of 44 minutes. It finds Killers experimenting with extended song lengths, including a massive 13-minute opus entitled “L’Autre Cote.” With respect to the latter, Killers sound more creative and inspired than ever on ‘Le Baiser de la Morte.’ The lengthier songs give Dolheguy and Andrieu room for stellar guitar jams layering one terrific riff and melody atop another. The band playfully adapt Mozart (albeit at supercharged turbo speed) at the beginning of “Aimer.” “Folie Defoule” has blastbeats. And Killers even pay homage to their Basque heritage (they hail from the town of Bardos, in the southwestern corner of France, which is Basque Country) with Basque lyrics in “Etorkizun Bidea,” which starts as a ballad before the hammer comes down once again. Nosirree, ‘Le Baiser de la Morte’ is not the work of a band scraping the bottom of the barrel for interesting musical ideas. The coolest part is that Killers work these elements into their existing sonic framework in a seamless manner. There are plenty of Killers’ trademark speedy, thrashy parts, and Dolheguy’s characteristic voice is thankfully unchanged. If you’re familiar with Killers, you’ll recognize the band instantly on this album. The difference here is that the songs breathe a bit more, the guitar melodies are a bit more pronounced, and the instrumental passages are a bit more involved. It works splendidly.
Like many underground metal bands in the modern age, Killers are now label-less and conduct all band operations in-house. That can be a negative in certain respects. For example, the production on ‘Le Baiser de la Mort’ is a little muddier and sounds more processed than one might like. But this independence is also a positive. The band enjoy complete creative control, and they make their albums and merchandise available to their fans at prices that are extremely fair and reasonable. If you’re at all interested in checking out Killers (and you should be if you’re a self-respecting metalhead who doesn’t mind foreign-language lyrics), look them up at http://killers.neuf.fr. Don’t let the lengthy discography intimidate you, as the band have been remarkably consistent (some might say stubborn) over the years. ‘Le Baiser de la Morte’ is a suitable starting point for the uninitiated too. Happy hunting!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~