Season Of Mist
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Poseidon
02. Attila (feat. Stéphane Buriez)
03. Derrière les Portes de Babylone (feat. Myrath)
04. Le Sacre Du Sorcier
05. La Parade Des Centaures (feat. Stéphane Buriez)
06. Walkyrie
07. Encore Un Jour
08. Trahison
09. Vampire
10. Apocalypso (feat. Kevin Codfert)

One of France's most convincing metal bands in the '80s, SORTILÈGE made a couple of terrific studio records before splitting, scuppered as they were by their failure to make inroads internationally. At home, they were heroes, and those albums — Métamorphose (1984) and Larme de Héros (1986) — stand up against anything from the same era. That became doubly apparent when, after an initial reunion in 2019, original singer Christian "Zouille" Augustin returned with a new incarnation of the band in 2021. He is last man standing from the original lineup and seems to have taken on the noble task of keeping their music alive. Two years ago, "Phoenix" kick-started SORTILÈGE's return. A mixture of new and re-recorded old material, it gave the band's classic sound the huge production it deserved, and Augustin sounded as powerful as ever. The new songs were great too and seemed to honor tradition without offering some pale imitation of the past. "Apocalypso" aims to keep that momentum going, as Augustin and his henchmen strive to add more meat to the bones of the SORTILÈGE legacy.

"Apocalypso" is completely true to the gently progressive but always heavy sound of those early records, despite sounding several times heavier. Augustin has obviously looked after his voice extremely well, because he sings the living shit out of every one of these epic tune, very much at home in his native French and all the more effective as a result. Meanwhile, his new(ish) bandmates are whipping up a relentless storm of melodic but defiantly non-cheesy heavy metal. Rich in conceptual conceits and dark melodrama, it occasionally feels like a master class in creating old-school heavy metal fit for the modern age. Even when they are sticking to a straightforward script, SORTILÈGE have the verve to stand apart from the trad metal set: both "Walkyrie" and "Vampire" are sturdy of riff and resolutely conventional, but Augustin's extraordinary vocals and his band's zealous demeanor elevate them to a higher level.

For the most part, "Apocalypso" wears its ambition on its sleeve. This is not just a new dawn for SORTILÈGE's music, but a concerted effort to outperform those first two classic albums. As a result, this is dominated by grandiloquent metal monoliths like opener "Poseidon" and the proudly progressive, eight-minute sprawl of the closing title track. In between, "Derrière les Portes de Babylone" (featuring oriental metallers MYRATH) twists and turns like prime KING DIAMOND, but with a strong doom undertow and lashings of cinematic atmosphere; "Attila" strides down the prog metal path, with gnarly hooks sealing the deal; "Encore un Jour" is a sumptuous, black-hearted ballad; "Trahison" is a neat slice of pure MAIDEN worship, and that's rarely a bad thing.

Above and beyond the quality of the tunes, "Apocalypso" hits the spot because Augustin's dedication to keeping his band's name out of history's footnotes and firmly in the 21st century spotlight shines through in every note. Plus, he sings like an absolute motherfucker. Heavy metal, folks. It's not meant to be complicated.

Author: Dom Lawson
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