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).
“Our influences were mainly hard rock bands, the ones we were covering at the time with Blood Wave,” confirms guitarist and founding member Didier Demajean today. 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.
After changing their name to Sortilège, Christian Augustin, aka “Zouille” (vocals), Daniel Lapp (bass), Jean-Philippe Dumont, aka Bob Snake (drums), Didier Demajean (guitar) and Stéphane Dumont (guitar) recorded their first, self-titled EP for Dutch label Rave-On Records in 1983. The five original compositions: “Amazone”, “Progéniture Destructrice”, “Gladiateur”, “Sortilège” and “Bourreau” were received extremely well by press and fans alike (inside and outside their home country). High-profile support slots in the French capital for Samson and Def Leppard followed, before it was time to record the follow-up to »Sortilège«.
Sortilège’s first full-length album was called »Métamorphose«, and it was released in 1984 on French label Devil’s Records. Following the release of the album, Sortilège played a French tour as well as appearing live in Germany and The Netherlands. An international edition called »Metamorphosis«, featuring English vocals, was issued by German label Steamhammer Records the same year. While »Métamorphose« sold 30,000 copies in France alone, the English Steamhammer edition sold roughly the same number.
When 1986 approached, it became time for the successor of »Métamorphose«/»Metamorphosis« to be recorded. »Larmes De Héros« is widely considered to be the best of the three Sortilège records. Guitarist Didier Demajean agrees wholeheartedly: “Yes, we think so too. It’s the most sophisticated, the most accomplished album of ours, and the songs are all very well written.”
Some people in France have described Sortilège as “absolute pioneers in Epic and Progressive Metal … Stylistically, »Larmes De Héros« was different from most French metal albums in 1985/86. “Yes, we had found our own style,” is how the band’s guitarist explains it, “we were much more Anglo-Saxon than the other French bands who all had a kind of complex towards English and American legends. The songs on »Larmes De Héros« are more melodic and were meant to reach a wider audience than just the usual hard core of metal fans.”
It is strange that even non-French speaking fans prefer the French-language version of »Larmes De Héros« compared to »Hero’s Tears« (the latter was once more put out by Steamhammer Records). “The English version of »Larmes De Héros« is not up to the standard of the original French version,” is how Didier explains it. “Zouille is much more at ease phonetically and rhythmically in his native language than in Shakespeare's. The interpretation and the emotion are undeniably felt more strongly in the French version.” That’s very well put.
This time, however, Steamhammer were holding the international rights, and so the French language-edition was licensed back to Rocks Records, a small French label, which in turn made the French pressing of »Larmes De Héros« a proper vinyl rarity back in the 1980s.
»Larmes De Héros«/»Hero’s Tears« was recorded in Germany at Karo Studios, produced by Vic Vergeat and engineered by Kalle Trapp. “They did what they could with the limited time and means available to them,” is how Didier describes the recording process in retrospect. “Vic Vergeat is an Italian guitar player, songwriter and record producer. He’s good, but he's not as exceptional a guitar player as Stéphane (laughs)!”
“We had a great time in Germany,” continues the guitarist, “the atmosphere was very good, but we didn't really have time to visit and enjoy the country, we were all very focused on our recordings.” However, it was not the band’s first visit to Germany,” as Didier Demajean recalls: “In late 1983, following the success of our first EP, we went on tour in Germany as an opening act for Viva, the band of Barbara Schenker, Rudolf’s and Michael's sister. The reception of the German audience was enthusiastic!”
After the release of »Larmes De Héros«/»Hero’s Tears« it went downhill pretty fast for Sortilège, France’s hard rock/metal band number two (after Trust). “After Zouille left, we continued under another name, with a Swiss singer, Mark B. Lay, from the band Killer,” Didier Demajean looks back. “We wrote new songs, but it didn't work out. We had reached the end of the line. There was nothing more to give. I think that Sortilège will never reform!”