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Lonewolf - 'Army Of The Damned' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a6/ad/b9/2260_lonewolfarmyofthedamned_1339003494.jpg Hot

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Dull and hackneyed.

Trust aside, French rock and metal bands have never really gained a strong foothold outside of their borders; their charms remaining the preserve of a select few persuaded by their quirky Gallic temperament – much like French cinema it has to be said. In some cases the language barrier can be an impediment to wider acceptance (their insistence on singing in their native tongue has certainly not done anything to further the cause of the otherwise mighty Manigance for example), but perhaps the malaise is deeper – take Lonewolf for example.

Formed in the southern French metropolis of Grenoble (gateway to the French Alps, and a city whose charms most bypass in the annual stampede for the ski slopes) as long ago as the early 90’s by vocalist/guitarist Jens Börner and former drummer Walkyr, Lonewolf are nothing if not survivors. After recording a couple of demo’s and releasing a now much sought after single (‘Holy Evil’), the band split in ’96 only to return rejuvenated at the start of the new millennium. Since then they’ve gone on to release four studio albums and established the band as one of the most popular and enduring in France.

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Having recently inked a deal with Austrian based Napalm Records (the home of bands like Iron Fire, Xandria, Grave Digger and Leaves Eyes), they’re now seeking to spread the word beyond their traditional markets with album number five ‘Army Of The Damned’ ... herein however, for me at least, lies the problem. Put simply, in today’s ever more increasingly congested power metal market place you have to prove your mettle against already established (and more importantly, internationally recognised) bands from Northern Europe and Scandinavia ... and in truth, nothing I hear on ‘Army Of The Damned’ proves that Lonewolf have the chops to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, musically speaking it’s not terrible ... their blusterous mixture of traditional power metal and folk metal influences certainly kicks up a storm, but it’s nothing you won’t have heard done before (or better in fact). Maybe it’s just me, but by album number five a band should have gone past the simplistic, galloping riffs of yore (look at the progression from ‘Kill ‘Em All’ to ‘Metallica’ for starters) which dominate throughout, and even when they do offer tantalising glimpses of something a little more cerebral, they seem clueless as to what to do with it. Biggest killer however is the tuneless, guttural vocal growl of aforementioned front man Jens Börner ... his grating rambling being one of the few times I can sympathise with the case for auto tune!!

Dull and hackneyed, quite why the usually alert Napalm Records signed this lot is beyond me; they’ve got far better bands on their books deserving of investment and outside the traditional Lonewolf fan base, I can’t see this winning many converts at all.

Dave Cockett

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