By 1985, thrash metal had become its own bona fide style. The new subgenre pushed boundaries of extremity, taking the galloping rhythm and guitar leads from the NWOBHM and combining it with the furious aggression of hardcore punk. Parallel to the growth of Thrash was Speed Metal; a sort of kindred brother to thrash, but one that didn’t want to completely shed the musical relation it had with the British bands that inspired them. By this point in time, speed metal had already branched in two main branches – bands that stuck to a grittier sound inspired by Venom/Motorhead (see the albums: Hellish Crossfire, Evil Invaders) and the other road took Iron Maiden and added double bass on top of it (see: Walls of Jericho, Skeptics Apocalypse).
One band that encapsulated the more melodic sound was ADX, a French act who opted to sing in their native language as opposed to English (a common trait among most bands from France at the time). If you can set aside your inability to understand the lyrics, then Exécution is an exhilarating listen from beginning to end.
What makes Exécution such an excellent listen is the contrast between the harsher sections verging on thrash with the sweet and blissful guitar melodies, courtesy of Herve “Marquis” Tesson and Paul Betov. From the opener “Déesse du Crime”, ADX lay out a formula that resonates throughout the whole course of the record – ludicrously fast tempos, twin guitar attacks bringing that recall the best moments of Adrian Murray and Smith as well as intense, face melting solos. The potent drumming of Didier “Dog” Buchard’s and use of double bass takes the album up a notch and is ultimately what serves to remind us that we’re no longer listening just to heavy metal – but speed metal in its full glory. The bass lines are delivered in a fluid, although somewhat eclectic manner (see “L’Etranger”). The vocals of Phil Grélaud provide a suitable middle ground that never veers into the extremes. While he employs a wide variety of high-pitched vocals, he never tries to apply falsetto or any gruff vocal-work ala early Rock ‘n’ Rolf or Dirk Schröder. This happy medium gives us plenty of memorable moments, particularly during the very anthemic choruses.
One drawback people might dislike is the somewhat unpolished production, but to me it represents another highlight in its favor. Many French bands (seemingly all of those on Devil’s Records) used this same production value which was raw, but crystalline enough to bring through the intricacies of each instrument being played. The album manages to pack 8 songs into almost 40 minutes of action; with no track overstaying its welcome and each bringing a distinctive flavor to the table. You have the energetic opener (the aforementioned “Déesse du Crime”), the mid-paced banger that provides a breather (“L’Etranger”) or even the instrumental that showcases the bands songwriting talent (“Exécution”). Yet where everything comes together is with the closing track, an ode to the cruel Roman emperor, Caligula. The tempo on this song feels so out of control, with Dog utilizing his double bass to its full potential and the Herve and Paul delivering a razor sharp attack of riffs to the backdrop of a simple, yet unforgettable chorus: “CA-LI-GU-LAAAAAAAAAA CA-LI-GU-LAAAAAAAAAAAAA”.
As far as debuts go, few bands can brag about doing such a great job as ADX. Exécution is a fantastic listen from beginning to end, showcasing an energetic and youthful band eager to make a dent in the metal scene. Unfortunately, ADX like many of their national peers (Sortilége, Blaspheme, High Power, etc.) were never able to break out into the wider international market, but to any speed metal fanatic, this album is a must.
Album rating: 92/100
Favorite song: Caligula