Friday 24 January 2020

ADX - Bestial (2020)

Country: France
Style: Heavy/Speed Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 24 Jan 2020
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I only have vague memories of ADX from back in the day, but they're a French heavy/speed metal band who formed back in 1982 and remained together for a decade, an era that saw four well-received studio albums. It looks like they got back together for a blip in the late nineties for one more, reforming in a more sustained manner in 2006; this is their sixth studio album since that point. The two founder members in play are vocalist Phil Grélaud and drummer Didier 'Dog' Bouchard.

They have a clean sound that's fast without being hyperspeed. The opener, Au dessus des croix noires finds a pace that's partway between heavy and speed metal, somewhat like the fastest songs by Iron Maiden, a fair comparison as there's some melodic dual guitarwork here that's reminiscent of Maiden and, like Maiden, the bass of Julien Rousseau is audible and excellent. Combined with the tribal intro that is Rituel Ancestral, this is a strong way to kick off an album.

My favourite songs are probably the next two. One of the weaker aspects to this album for me are Grélaud's vocals because he often shifts into a style that's as much punk as metal. He's not bad, don't get me wrong, but he's a vocalist for those who prefer the style of Paul Di'Anno to Bruce Dickinson. Whichever way you go, he's fantastic on Overlord, which also features some great duelling guitars over a fast paced backdrop, and there are points in Les Sanguinares when he shifts to a lower, almost chanting style that fits the song really well.

Google Translate tells me that Les Sanguinares means The Bloodthirsty, but I'm sure there's more to it than that, given the general horror feel (that I'm starting to remember from earlier albums) and especially the delicious creepy version of Happy Birthday, sung in French, that introduces the song with knowing laughter. Sadly there aren't any lyrics on the Bandcamp page for this album because I'd love to know what's going on here.

There's certainly a continuing horror theme in play here, as Collecteurs de chair translates to Flesh Collectors, Le marche des spectres is The March of the Ghosts and, if you couldn't guess, Action cannibale is Cannibal Action. What's more, the second half features three very short (as in under thirty seconds) tracks that are spoken word pieces narrated by guitarist Nicklaus Bergen, presumably as progression for a concept piece that spans multiple tracks. Again, I'd love to find out exactly what it's all about.

Ironically, given that there's a language barrier here, I should emphasise that it doesn't affect the music at all. ADX, who always sang in French, did struggle to break through into wider markets in an era when European bands, like the Scorpions, chose to sing in English. Nowadays, I don't think people care as much and I'm certainly living in Google Translate, to help me with a host of foreign languages, some of which don't even use my alphabet.

The band, which also includes a new second guitarist by the name of Neo, is excellent whatever language you happen to speak, the back end very tight indeed and the twin guitars fluid in how they weave around each other. I'll praise the mix again for keeping the bass so prominent; Rousseau introduces a couple of songs and rumbles along under a bunch of others to great effect.

What surprises me is that this isn't as fast as I remember. I paused most of the way through and sought out Exécution, ADX's debut album from 1985. Sure enough, they used to be a speed metal band who slowed down on occasion. On this album, they're the other way around, a heavy metal band who ramp it up to a speed metal pace on occasion. They sound good but I'd like some more of that old speed. Clearly I need to go back in this multilingual era and check out those early ADX albums again. It's been too long!

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