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A Phenomenal Debut - 87%

stainedclass2112, December 13th, 2016

This is the debut album from French heavy metal band Lorraine Cross, entitled Army of Shadows. Honestly, I didn't quite know what to expect before jumping into this record, but I was intrigued by the dark, menacing artwork as well as their admittedly cool logo, so I decided to let 'er rip. When I jumped in, I was greeted by power/thrash/speed riffing in the vein of the mighty Metal Church, an angsty, very French sounding singer, and a boatload of heavy metal gusto that punched me right in the gut just how I like it. In addition to this, the first song is only child's play compared to the wallop that the rest of this album packs. Before I dive in, let me just say that this is unusually cool, and I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality that Army of Shadows possesses.

Army of Shadows has a swell time flirting with various metal styles, especially power and speed metal, and there is even a pinch of thrash in here. The first song, "Sharpshooter" gets going with a nice buildup introduction before a badass descending bass line that segues into a nice little power/thrash riff to get you hooked, but then the band jumps in and you'll quickly hop on board with what they're doing. The vocalist spits his lyrics out with a stylish snarl that's honestly a bit off-kilter, but he pulls it off. The drumming and the riffing go together unbelievably smoothly, and the polished yet muscular production really gives the already tough riffs a boost in energy. Funnily enough, "Sharpshooter" is one of the weakest songs on this album by a rather large margin, but it still does the trick in giving you a taste of what this band sounds like; the real meat of what this album has prepared comes after the opener.

And honestly, the next eleven songs, with the exception of "Die in Your Arms", which is a lame ballad, are all fantastic. "One Bullet For Me", the sassy-as-hell riffwork of "Hard to Get Out", the curiously melodic riffing of "Stray Rocket", and especially my three favorites: "The Slab Was Trapped!", "At Close Range", and "Don't Waste Your Energy" are just killer tracks oozing with energy, attitude, and above all: distinctly efficient songwriting. The songs, while there are a lot of them, each strive for making their point and firing off, and that earns this album major points. There's no bloating or unnecessary experimentation, only creative, catchy, and delightfully unorthodox heavy metal songwriting. These guys bring some GREAT riffs to the table, like "Don't Waste Your Energy" which packs a main riff that will not get out of my head. As if the cool, old school yet refreshing riffing wasn't enough, I just love the funny French singer spitting things out with passion over all of the music. He has passion, a unique sense of attitude, and his tone of voice gives the band a unique brand.

To touch on what I mean by "unorthodox" songwriting, Army of Shadows is chock full of songs that deceptively adhere to simple, catchy heavy metal standards without seeming simple. The songs each have a few little interlude riffing sections, or maybe a solo or something, but they weave the transitions together so fantastically that it feels like a ride. It takes a few listens before you really are predicting each track's nuances, and that adds massive points to the replay value (can I say that about music? I'm doing it). However, it's not like the songs are too puzzling or overly-complicated, because they are not, it's just that this band has the art of old school metal songwriting freakin' dialed in. This record is creative and new in its own way, but it also scratches that 80's metal itch quite well. It's hard to explain, but once this album sinks its teeth into you, you'll figure it out.

So honestly, color me very surprised and very happy with this. What a little gem! Who knew some little French heavy metal band who obviously have a lot of old metal records lining their shelves could pump out some exciting, energetic, and sassy original material of their own? Each band member (yes, even the bassist, he adds a ton to the sound) contributes a lot to the final product, and every song serves as a neat sliver of excellent modern metal that has made me a fan. "Die in Your Arms" should be skipped, and the intro song just doesn't hit me like the rest of the record does, but those are just two mistakes in the midst of a handful of great tracks. I'm surprised I'm even saying this, but I encourage you to listen to this; it's great. What a fantastic way to start a career, Lorraine Cross. Well done. Well done indeed.