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Heavy metal music never enjoyed much success in France which is a pity since many interesting bands come from the Hexagon. Among pioneer bands, Blaspheme, H-Bomb and Sortilège are probably the most influential ones along with Satan Jokers. The latter released two diversified, emotional and powerful regular records plus a solid EP in the eighties but split up before it could gain more attention. The band came back to life twenty-three years later and has released five new studio albums in a few years that didn't get much attention either. Once again, this is a pity since they are great heavy metal records with a couple of interesting lyrical concepts.
''Les Fils du Métal'' is the band's first output and one of the first French heavy metal releases in general. The album unites the technical skills of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with charismatic and unique French lyrics and a true joie de vivre from start to finish. The title track is one of the most iconic French heavy metal songs that captures the spirit of early heavy metal in an outstanding way. The track is catchy, energizing and still works great in concert after more than three decades. If this track had English lyrics, it could have made it on a classic Judas Priest album from the early eighties. ''Samurai'' is a little bit more aggressive and connects with the punk influences of early heavy metal music. Once again, this kind of tune would have found its righteous place on one of Iron Maiden's first two records if it had English lyrics. If you like these legendary bands as much as I do, you will find a true gem with Satan Joker's debut album and it's pity that this band didn't become more famous.
The band is also able to try out different and more unique things than copying the styles of their renowned British colleagues. The darker and slower ''Offrandes'' has an unforgettable sing-along chorus. ''Derrière les portes closes'' has a surprisingly soft and catchy chorus with enchanting clean background vocals and a few danceable piano sounds. Despite this chanson-oriented approach, the track still has a lot of drive in form of melodic guitar solos and fierce high-pitched vocals in the verses. The epic album closer ''Quand les héros se meurent'' is a chillingly floating heavy metal ballad influenced by hard and progressive rock music of the late seventies that also convinced with diversified vocal efforts. This track turns out to be a real grower and finishes an entertaining release on a strong note.
If you think French people don't know how to rock out, this album is the perfect example that you are wrong. The record features everything heavy metal fans want to hear from powerful up-tempo tunes over dark mid-tempo stompers to melodic ballads. Even a technically satisfying instrumental song can be found on the album. Apart from the short instrumental overture, this album features highly entertaining tunes between two and a half and six and a half minutes. There are no unnecessary lengths on the record and each song is at least pretty solid. Traditional heavy metal fans should definitely purchase this album. I can highly recommend the bundle by Axe Killer Records with the second record ''Trop fou pour toi'' that comes in a nice box set with an additional poster.
*Written for the 10th MA Virgin Reviews Challenge
Satan Jokers formed part of the tier-2/3 of French heavy metal in the ‘80s, and were mildly successful, hailing from the same Paris scene as the mighty Sortilege, and though not quite reaching the heights of their power metal colleagues, amassed a large fanbase and freuquently were included in the lineups of the largest festivals and shows in the country. The band were veterans, forming out of the ashes of hard rock band Garters, forming officially in ’81, and taking their name from the monikers of two American Motorcycle gangs – the Satan’s Slaves, and the Gypsie Jokers. After recording early demos the groups management was able to secure them a deal with major stable Vertigo, where they released several albums, gaining decent promotion, and a loyal following in France.
The debut full length ‘The Sons of Metal’ hits the streets in ’83 and was generally well received. It would be re-released several times with one version at least containing some tracks recorded in English tacked on to the end. Present on the debut is a song that ranges from Krokus-esque rock, Judas Priestish heavy metal bangers, like ‘Offering’, and aggressive crunching tracks akin to countrymen Demon Eyes / Titan. Though some tracks are indeed pretty classy, the same level of refinement and poise of Blaspheme / Sortilege is arguably not reached, though the band does posses, in tracks like the thundering ‘Samurai’, the same snarling, aggressive and rogh edged power of Titan and Demon Eyes, an attribute certainly common amongst the French ‘80s metal.
There’s some pretty awesome power metallish tracks like the title track, while others are slightly more traditional in style. Arguably though, Stan Jokers, while pretty solid, doesn’t possess quite the same majesty of fellow countrymen ADX, Sortilege or Blaspheme. Definitely worth checking out if you’re into the French metal stuff though, Satan Jokers’ debut offering is far from a bad record – its just sits alongside some pretty solid company – hence the band were never as internationally well-regarded as the other French titans. As with the other French stuff though, nice aggression in the sound and production, as well as some rather cool, unique addtions to songs like ‘Tokyo Geisha’ and others do make for a rather memorable album. Plenty of NWOBHM and Iron Maidenish influence comes into the sound, and there are some blazingly awesome solos (‘Tokyo Geisha’ again). Good album, just not overly amazing or memorable.