Hot on the heels of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, by the early 80s heavy metal was destined for worldwide acclaim, but specifically we’ll focus on France. In typical French fashion, they were not to be outdone by their English neighbors. 1982 and 1983 saw the first wave of heavy metal releases from the country, emanating mostly from Paris and spearheaded by demos/EPs from bands such as Blaspheme, H-Bomb, Satan’s Jokers, and particularly High Power with one of the earliest full lengths from the country. This wave also included the crown jewel of the scene, Sortilège’s self-titled EP.
Sortilège, like many French bands at the time, made the bold choice to sing in their native language. While this proved to be a commercial stumble for both Sortilège and their contemporaries, it created a much more authentic and natural feeling final product. To see the difference language can make, one can compare it to Sortilège’s later albums, which were recorded in both French and English at the request of their label.
In order to write a truly outstanding release, a band has to either push the boundaries of their chosen genre, or manage to outdo their influences at their own game.The Sortilège EP lands snugly in the latter category. There is no reinventing the wheel on this EP, Sortilège takes their primary influences and executes a flawless homage to them. After a brief (and very familiar…) intro to Amazone, Sortilège channels their inner early Iron Maiden and launches into a breakneck heavy metal assault with just a hint of punkiness to it. The indisputable star of the show on this EP is vocalist Christian “Zouille” Augustin who, for the length of the EP, absolutely WAILS while reciting tales of the Amazonian warriors, demonic progeny, and other topics mainly rooted in mythology and the ancient world. That being said, come for the vocals, stay for sick riffs. There’s no shortage of iconic and relentlessly catchy melodies on this album that keep you coming back to it over and over, if for no other reason than to hear the end of “Progéniture” one more time. And at just under 19 minutes long, why not stay for the whole thing again?
The only “low point”, if the EP can said to have one, is where the band opts to drop tempo for the plodding “Gladiateur”. However, this “low point”, at less than 3 minutes long, does not overstay its welcome at all. Not to mention, the track transcends the language barrier for anglophone listeners with an easily recognizable catchy hook which would easily make it a standout track without such strong neighbors in the tracklist. The EP doesn’t linger on this tempo long before cranking the energy back to 10 with the title track “Sortilège”, one of those rare songs where everything just seems to come together perfectly. You can FEEL the passion on this track, they loved what they were doing and knew they were doing it well. Like any self-titled song strives to be, this song sums up all the best aspects of Sortilège. Crunchy riffs over punky drums with an incredible vocal performance about infernal sorcery. What’s not to love? (On a related note, can we bring back the trend of self-titled songs on self-titled releases?)
For a debut release, I really dont think a band could do better than this EP. While Sortilège never achieved worldwide acclaim, it was well respected in the underground in its own time and for good reason. This EP is an absolutely essential listen in underground heavy metal.
Album Rating: 100/100
Favorite Song: Sortilège