All tracks mastered by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in September 2022.
When French heavy metal band Sortilège formed in 1981, they were following the example of their fellow countrymen Trust. Musically however, the band from the suburbs of Paris took their musical approach one step further, forging an amalgam of true heavy metal without being influenced by punk rock (like the early Trust), blues rock (Ganafoul) or progressive rock (Océan). “Yes, absolutely,” confirms guitarist and founding member Didier Demajean today, “our influences were mainly hard rock bands, the ones we were covering at the time with Blood Wave.” Blood Wave were the forerunners of Sortilège, playing songs by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rainbow, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Kiss, and of course Trust.
Didier Demajean and his musical partner Stéphane Dumont started practising guitar at the age 15. He explains: “We were fans of Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, and we tried to take inspiration from these legendary guitar players.” When original songs took over from cover tunes, Blood Wave turned into Sortilège: “We decided to switch to a French name that was current and sounded good, so we chose Sortilège, which seemed to us melodic, mysterious and bewitching.”
According to Didier Demajean, apart from pioneers Trust and Sortilège, France had a whole lot of new and interesting metal bands in the early eighties: “I remember groups like H-Bomb, Satan Jokers, ADX, Vulcain, Blasphème, Warning, Demon Eyes etc. There really was a craze, we had a huge desire to express ourselves. It was a very creative period for French hard rock.”
Apart from Didier Demajean on guitar, the first stable line-up of Sortilège consisted of Christian Augustin (“Zouille”) on vocals, Daniel Lapp on bass Jean-Philippe Dumont, aka Bob Snake, behind the drum kit and Stéphane Dumont on second guitar.
When it was time to search for a label, however, the band had to look outside their home country, as Didier expresses today: “At the time, no French label wanted to sign us. France is the land of a variety of music, unlike the Anglo-Saxons who are really into rock, first and foremost. Our manager got in touch with a number of international labels and we chose the Dutch Rave-On Records label, which offered us the best conditions for our first EP.”
The mentioned self-titled EP was issued in 1983 and consisted of five original compositions: “Amazone”, “Progéniture Destructrice”, Gladiateur”, “Sortilège” and “Bourreau”. “We were young musicians, without much experience, but we had the desire and the energy of our youth, all that is felt in the album,” sums up Didier today. “The songs are raw, the sound is direct, and the alchemy between Stéphane's compositions and Christian’s melodies and lyrics have touched the hearts of teenagers of our generation. The vocals, the riffs, the solos and the way of playing on this EP, have anchored our musical identity in the public mind.”
For the »Sortilège« EP the band got some good reviews in French magazines, like Enfer, Best and Rock & Folk: “Yes, absolutely, many glowing articles in specialist magazines. While the French labels ignored us, the press immediately supported us on a massive scale. The rise was meteoric.” He continues: “The reception was worldwide, we received support from all over.
At the time, the address of the fan club was my parents', we received letters from the USA, South America, and the whole of Europe. It was incredible and extremely motivating! How could we have known that a small rock band from the suburbs of Paris would have such an impact?”
The High Roller edition of »Sortilège« also contains two bonus tracks from the 1981 demo: “Esclave De La Mort” and “Reine De Sabbat”. “These are the very first songs we ever recorded,” elaborates Didier, “and you can hear it!
Our first compositions, we were still looking for our style and it took us some time to find it. Without denying these first drafts, we didn't keep them for our first EP, they weren't mature enough compared to the songs we composed afterwards.”
In addition to that, there are also English versions of three original tracks off the EP on the High Roller edition: “The Amazon Warriors”, “Gladiator” and “Blade Killer”. Are these totally different recordings from the French language versions, and who did the English translations? “No, these are the same recordings with the lyrics in English,” is Didier’s straight answer to this question. “The adaptation was done by Stéphane's girlfriend at the time, Fred, who had lived in the United States for several years.”
With the EP out in the shops, Sortilège quickly became the second most important metal band in the country: “Yes, that's right, we became the band that sold the most hard rock albums in France after Trust, far ahead of all the others.”
With their popularity rising during 1983, Sortilège secured two high-profile support slots in their home country, first with Samson and then with Def Leppard: “Yes, Samson at the Mutualité, one of the very first venues in Paris.
We had just come out of our garage, and when we went on stage, we saw banners with our image on them, it was unbelievable. We still wonder how the fans had heard about us! And then Def Leppard at the Bataclan, two nights in a row, a wonderful experience for the band. Def Leppard were already stars, we were still nobodies, but we gave all our energy, and the audience greeted us with warmth and enthusiasm. From these concerts, our name began to circulate more among hard rock fans, but also among professionals in the sector. Fantastic memory!”