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Dotés d'un lourd gilet d'acier! - 85%

Xyrth, May 15th, 2018

Ten years after their incredibly pathetic attempt at becoming the French Pantera, known by name as Résurrection, ADX decided to reform for a second time, again incorporating a bit of the then current modern metal aesthetics, only, this time, without discarding their early heavy/speed metal signature sound. In fact, the newer undertones where mostly relegated to using an enhanced, clear but meaty production, which reinforced their classic sound with extra layers of metal. Unlike their '85-'90 catalogue, which nowadays has a vintage feel, Division Blindée, their sixth LP, upgraded their sound as to compete with the modern power metal and even the resurgent thrash outfits, both veteran and recent alike, with great success, marking the beginning of their true comeback era, in which they've released material ranging from good to excellent, even competing with their past works in terms of quality.

As the 2000s saw the return of many great classic metal acts of old, like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, it was a natural thing that the Frenchmen returned to their roots, albeit with a modern presentation. So thankfully, close to 0 groove metal is to be found here. With Gojira taking care of that in the name of metal bands coming out of L'Hexagone, ADX could return to do what they did best; memorable melodic speed metal with a few progressive touches per tune, that compels you to listen in awe and headbang furiously at the same time. Indeed, you'll find plenty of that in the 50+ minutes of this Armored Division release. After the not so brief symphonic intro “Avant l'Assault”, “À la Glorie de Dieu” strikes fast with its inaugural speedy riffs and thrashy rhythms, and it's all metal goodness from then onwards.

The dual guitar team, such an important element to ADX's style, is composed this time by Pascal Betov and newcomer Bernard-Yves Quéruel, who would stay with the band for another three LPs. Hervé “Marquis” Tasson decided not to rejoin or wasn't available, while Claude "Klod" Thill also replaces longtime bassist Frédéric “Deuch” Deuchilly, who like Marquis, didn't rejoined here, preventing the original line up to reform once more. Both Queruel and Klod prove to be more than capable and respectable replacements however, the latter also providing the ornamental keyboard parts in this release. The riffs are potent and fast for the most part, although some quasi-groove chug-alongs appear occasionally, the only and quite scarce remnants of their preposterous experiment ten years before, and in this context thankfully they aren't bad.

Dog Bouchard does return to the drum kit, employing different styles and sounding thrashier than ever before in some passages. He's a solid drummer that can tastefully play at different tempos with ease, so there are no complaints in that area. His occasional abrupt changes of pace manage to provide a few surprises here and there in what appears to be, to the inexperienced fan, a very straightforward heavy/speed album. And finally but not less importantly, the man behind the mic, Phil Grélaud returns again to lead this metallic assault, and while he's the one who sounds more aged, his newfound gruffness seems in accord with the heavier style of his band, sometimes bordering on thrash, a genre almost untouched by Frenchmen, since they're famed for preferring to do love rather than war… except when that short, belligerent Napoleon guy was around.

The quality of the ten metallic new tunes in Division Blindée varies a little bit, as ADX still attempts some experimentation with different styles and tempos. The stellar quality core tracks 4-7 constitute my personal and recommended highlight, starting with the anthem-esque, war-themed title track, with its memorable and passionate chorus and its classic speed metal aesthetic. Then comes the King Diamond-esque “Mary la Sanglante”, a tale of twisted sexual abuse and revenge that has some NWOBHM-influenced melodies along with some slithering riffing. “Lynchantropie” carries on with the horror show, as Klod uses creepy organ as background. The chorus is strangely uplifting but works fine in this werewolf tale. Next comes “Poison d'État”, about the intrigues during the long reign of France's other well-known belligerent guy, Louis XIV, the Sun King. Like “Division Blindée”, it's another of the tracks that better display the soul of classic ADX, with uplifting melodies and propulsive beats.

Division Blindée manages to bring back some form of their glorious knack for memorable songwriting, and it shows that despite their lack of activities during most part of the new millennium's first decade, the musicians weren't rusty at all. Like a polished and well-taken-care-of bayonet, this record is a poignant and sharp instrument with which the Frenchmen opened their way up to the front, becoming a relevant metallic force again. While not as good as ADX's classic pre-’98 releases or their last two more recent efforts, Division Blindée was a very pleasant surprise 10 years ago and while I usually don't listen to it in its entirety anymore, it has enough quality moments and songs to give it a few chances.