It’s unfortunate that French heavy metal band Lonewolf’s sixth studio album had to be next on Happy Metal Guy’s reviewing list right after he reviewed this. But well, it’s too bad—that’s just how life is. When life splashes lemonade on you, use a pail to collect every drop of it dutifully, obtain citric acid crystals from it and use them to produce pesticide. Then, spray life in the face with the pesticide. So maybe Lonewolf should try to be as joyous and forward-looking as Happy Metal Guy and spin this meh review in their favor. Anyway, thanks to overwhelming carry-over effects this time round, not even a one-year break would have saved The Fourth and Final Horseman from the gallows.
With a style as overdone and ancient as heavy metal, it’s never going to be easy to stand out from the crowd when a band adopts it. Sadly, this record is another one of those that has “forgettable” spelled all over its visual, lyrical and sonic faces. Lonewolf may pride itself on being a true-to-the-bone heavy metal band—their band members are clad in black leather and have long manes, the band logo tries to be symmetrical (only the ‘L’ and ‘f’ are), their lyrics deal with the occult, darkness, blah blah blah—but their particular manifestation of heavy metal just doesn’t work in this day and age.
For the music, the only thing that mildly catches one’s attention is the vocals, and this is a bad thing, because the guitar riffs and lead guitar solos are typically the catchiest part of traditional heavy metal music. Lead vocalist Jens Börner has a rough singing voice that utilizes vibrato often, and together with frequent bouts of group singing, the vocals give the overall music a nice retro feel; nothing wrong in this department apart from it sounding too unvaried and dull at times. The guitars, however, sound too straightforward and hence, predictable. Sure, their riffs n’ solos may sound decently melodic, but they neither play around with rhythmic patterns enough nor engage in polyphonic conversations with the bass guitar. As a result, despite their melodiousness, they still end up sounding rather one-dimensional.
The lyrics make mention of dark and scaaaary stuff like war, death, hell, dragons, skulls and wolves; though an angel is mentioned somewhere inside, probably to sooth the gravely spooked hearts of innocent and evil-fearing people like Happy Metal Guy. For example, there’s an utterly Manowar-ish song called “Time for War”, which has cheesy lines such as “Time for war! And time for glory!” that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Thor movie. And honestly, the guitar solo in this song sounds eargasmic, though the aural pleasure it induces is somewhat besmirched by the numerous eye-rolling proclamations of “Time for war!”
Oh, the horrible artwork. The album title is placed in a really awkward position (and “final horseman” is strangely printed in larger font than the preceding words… what’s the purpose of this emphasis?) and the entire thing as a whole would look much better without the huge-ass band logo obscuring so much of the bottom-half of the artwork. The only positive thing to note about it is that the skeletal design of the horseman is apt, since the fourth horseman of the Christians’ idea of the Apocalypse is supposed to symbolize “Death”. But hey, if praising an accurate depiction of something is the only thing worth noting about the artwork, it really says a lot about its visual appeal.
While the music isn’t too shabby, the cover artwork design and lyrics are—especially the latter. Playing traditional heavy metal nowadays is perfectly fine, but please don’t write lyrics based on romanticized concepts of humanity’s raison d’être and seem like you’re actually taking it seriously. So you wrote about a harbinger of the Apocalypse of Christian lore? Puh-leeze! Writing about, say, Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy 75 million years ago, would have been something fresher and more fitting for the 21st century. Also, that would have instantly made Tom Cruise a fan and, by word-of-mouth, every alien in the observable universe one too!