The French Heavy / Power Metal band LONEWOLF started its activities in… and here it depends on the source… because Metal-Archives says 1992 with a first 3-track demo, “The Dark Throne” in that same year, while the band’s bio (see the Facebook page) states 1993 as the debut year and the first demo coming out not in 1993 (see Metal-Archives), but in 1994 under the title “The Calling”. And this demo is, according to Metal-Archives, the band’s SECOND demo (from 1993). Is it because “The Dark Throne” was perhaps more a try-out than a proper demo, so to speak? In any case, the band ceased all activities after the “Holy Evil” single from 1995 or 1996 (again source-dependent).
A reunion was in the making in 2000 and two years (or was it that same year?) later the debut album “March Into The Arena” was released. Anno 2003 – ah, both websites agree – the follow-up came out: “Unholy Paradise”. So far the band had then shared the stage with GRAVE DIGGER, PARAGON, SACRED STEEL, PAUL DI’ANNO and WIZARD. Another 5 years later, album no. 3 was ready for the market: “Made In Hell”. The French didn’t waste any time and the following year “The Dark Crusade” was made available. This album featured several guests – Majk Moti (RUNNING WILD), Jan Bünning (PARAGON) and Marta Gabriel (CRYSTAL VIPER). The album itself was produced by Bart Gabriel, known from his work with e.g. BURNING STARR, SACRED STEEL and CRYSTAL VIPER. The mixing was in the hands of Andy LaRocque (KING DIAMOND).
Since March 30, 2012, LONEWOLF’s fifth studio album is ready for the masses, also thanks to a deal with Napalm Records, who also re-issued “The Dark Crusade”, including 3 bonus tracks. “Army Of The Damned”, the title of the newest output, is my first encounter with LONEWOLF. I could have seen them live at Power, Prog & Metal Fest last month (April) in Mons, Belgium, but circumstances blocked this mission. It’ll be for another occasion then. But at least there’s the music to listen to and that’s what matters most. “Army Of The Damned” begins with the band’s song, “Lonewolf”. To give it a proper feel and atmosphere, thunder breaks loose, followed by a clean guitar lick, creating a sense of mystery. Hymnic leads add to the building of the song. The fast Power Metal soon erupts, STORMWARRIOR-style. Fierce vocals, together with raging guitars and pounding drums, make sure this is not the fluffy kind of Power Metal. The guitars obviously are the dominant factor and solos are another element the band spent attention to. A very nice start, to say the least.
“Crawling To Hell” is a pounding Heavy Metal track, much in vein of e.g. SABATON. The music is more melodic now and the chorus has a typical hymnic character. To some extent the music reminded me a bit, style-wise, of BLACK MESSIAH’s Power Metal side. The guitar solo moment is again well done. My sole point of criticism would be that the chorus gets repeated too often. Repetition can have its use, but there’s only a limited number of times before it gets annoying. LONEWOLF are on that thin line here. The title track is, although good, a song I personally found a little less attractive. It begins with a choir in a hymnic canvas and the chorus part. Guitars and drums come in as the seconds tick away and so the power ballad takes off. All in all, not a bad song, but quite ordinary. The guitar work is very good, it must be said, including the solos.
JUDAS PRIEST has “Hellbent For Leather”, LONEWOLF has “Hellbent For Metal”. No, this is not a cover with a simple word change. This is a raging, uptempo Power Metal track. And yes, solos are again a vital aspect. Great stuff, no more needs to be said. “Soulreapers”, before the midtempo take-off, gets built with a very melodic guitar lick. A powerful track with a hymnic chorus. Solos form the finishing touch. Solid material! “Celtic Heart” begins clean, but power is added along the way. The pace is a little slower, the music very melodic. Here as well, the French handled things properly. But then comes another song that, to me, is not as superb as the others: “The Last Defenders”. The guitar sets in and once the intro is past, you get MANOWAR-like Heavy Metal, nothing fast, however. There is a small boost during the guitar solo, thank goodness for that. But this switch is too trivial to save the song, so to speak.
“Cold” saves the day, for this brings another round of raging Power Metal to the table. Melodic and firm! “The One You Never See” is a Folky midtempo track with clean and more fierce vocals. Not bad, but nothing special either. But there are solos and that’s a good thing. “Tally Ho” has several meanings, one coming from the hunt. See Wikipedia for more info. The song can be described as fast melodic Power Metal. And that’s something LONEWOLF is very good at. Likewise for the last song, “One Second In Eternity”, where it’s once more clear that solos are mastered and a key part of LONEWOLF’s compositions.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, “Army Of The Damned” is my first LONEWOLF album and I have to say: these guys know how to produce solid Heavy/Power Metal and pay attention to guitar solos. If you’re into bands like HAMMERFALL, SABATON, STORMWARRIOR, MANOWAR and so on, then add LONEWOLF to your list and buy “Army Of The Damned” without worries.
- Crawling To Hell
- Army Of The Damned
- Hellbent For Metal
- Celtic Heart
- The Last Defenders
- The One You Never See
- Tally Ho
- One Second In Eternity
Jens Börner – vocals, guitars
Alex Hilbert – guitars
Rikki Mannhard – bass
Tonio Bussière – drums