Opulent roses and animalic leather lie at the heart of Army of Lovers, the latest release from LM Parfums. Although it is ostensibly a chypre, Army of Lovers often feels more like a leather fragrance than one redolent of oakmoss. The greenness shimmers like a distant mirage, whilst all before you is musky leather that has been smeared with honey, sprinkled with spices, then nestled amongst some jammy roses in a stable. There is no getting around that last part, as this is one very dirty, raunchy leather that has a definite equine vibe for a good portion of its lifespan on my skin.
In fact, Army of Lovers often reminded me of the old story about Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, who would allegedly go straight from riding her horse after a long day at the hunt to slipping on an expensive evening gown and attending a party, without a shower in-between. Yet, something about that shimmering oakmoss mirage in the background makes Army of Lovers more than dirty, horse-y leather wrapped up with rubied roses. LM Parfums’ founder, Laurent Mazzone, once told me that he loves the great vintage legends like Mitsouko, and that he seeks to bring the same sort of vibe to his fragrances, only in a more modern way.
That sort of old-school sophistication hovers around Army of Lovers in a way that makes the Camilla Parker-Bowles story seem more apt for the characters of Downton Abbey, or some mash-up of a Ralph Lauren ad involving British aristocrats, riding, and evening gowns. There is a twist, though: these aristocrats are plucked from D.H. Lawrence‘s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and end up having a rather raunchy frolic with a musky, dirty gamekeeper in the stables.
Let’s start at the beginning. Army of Lovers is part of LM Parfums‘ Intimacy Collection, a stronger, more expensive range which is centered around pure parfums made from more luxurious ingredients. Hard Leather was the first in the collection, and Army of Lovers joined it on October 15th, with an official launch date of November 1st.
Mr. Mazzone spent two years working on Army of Lovers which is named after a Swedish band that he adores. The full press release that I previously posted describes both the reason why the group strikes such a chord with Mr. Mazzone, and how he’s sought to find the perfect “baroque” fragrance to pay tribute to them. The parts pertaining to the scent are as follows:
ARMY OF LOVERS is musk cyprus based, very much a «skin» perfume which mixes the strong notes of coriander, oak moss and patchouli.
ARMY OF LOVERS plays with paradox and epochs, worn equally by men and women, it’s for those who refuse to be stereotyped. Sensual and earthy, it is a perfume of our times which retains a spicy-cyprus legacy of the classics.
ARMY OF LOVERS is a perfume which defies time.
The note pyramid for Army of Lovers is:
Top: Coriander, Spice, Rose, Violet.
Middle: Cashmere woods, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Oak moss.
Base: Honey, Amber, Musk.
Army of Lovers opens on my skin with velvety, jammy, patchouli roses, followed by musky leather coated lightly with honey, then sprinkled with spices and a dash of Norlimbanol. The overall effect feels like a more rosy, floral sister to Hard Leather, only with a green chypre element floating hazily and nebulously in the background.
There are differences, though. Army of Lovers lacks the powerful sense of woodiness that Hard Leather manifests, as well as its strong backbone of rich, spicy, very genuine Mysore sandalwood. The scent is clearly very floral in nature at the start, imbued with a profound sense of jamminess from fruited patchouli, and ghostly flickers of both violets and coriander as well. Still, there is a very strong kinship between the two fragrances and, if I smelled Army of Lovers blindly, I would immediately think it was made by the same person who created Hard Leather.
The greatest difference, however, involves the nature of the leather. Here, it is raw to an extent that far exceeded Hard Leather on my skin. In fact, in less than a minute, the note takes on a powerful equine bent, evoking images of leather that is covered with the sweat and musky scent of a horse after a long ride.
Army of Lovers actually has the most horse-y aroma of any fragrance I’ve tried thus far, outweighing Mazzolari‘s Lui quite substantially. But the perfume isn’t finished yet in its changes. A few minutes later, the aroma transitions to something that is fully fecal in nature. That was never the case for me with Hard Leather, though it was for some other people during the first 20 minutes. For me, the main note in Hard Leather opened with lots of animalic muskiness, a certain dirty rawness, a wisp of the barnyard, but a whole lot of very definite lusty sensuality that evoked heated skin during sex. Moreover, that stage only lasted 15 minutes, and it absolutely never turned fecal on my skin. Army of Lovers does.
I’ve tested Army of Lovers a number of times, and the fecal stage never lasts long on my skin. I’ve actually timed it: the sensual muskiness turns to horsey leather after 2 minutes; then into a fecal note at the 5 minute mark; the poo vanishes exactly 7 minutes after that, or 12 minutes into the perfume’s overall development. Those are the numbers when I applied 3 small sprays from a decant, and it just a shade less when I use 2 sprays. What is left after all that, after roughly 10-12 minutes, is a return back to the horsey leather with just a strong suggestion of the stables (or “barnyard”) about it. It’s not akin to manure, feces, or soiled diapers any more, but the leather is most definitely a dirty one. It is also musky, has a light sheen of sweat over it, and is sweetened by a thin smear of honey. A dash of spices is sprinkled over it, but they are abstract, shapeless and impossible to tease out into anything specific.
Behind the duet of velvety roses and raunchy leather lies the oakmoss. It has a strange quality here that is really hard to explain, because something about it feels like a mirage. It shimmers in the far distance, almost like a trick of the mind more than a solid, truly concrete, substantial layer of oakmoss. It’s more like a suggestion of a chypre with some nebulous greenness that has been recreated by a sleight of hand via other elements like the coriander. I never smell the herb in any concrete way after the first minute, but I think it works indirectly to create that optical illusion of greenness. The only way I can really describe it is like a mirage that is real but, at the same time, it isn’t. The oakmoss is not really there and, yet, Army of Lovers is absolutely a chypre that has a green base.
When I tested Army of Lovers last year in Paris, the first words out of my mouth were “Mousse de Chene!” I think the next ones were a massively emphasized: “Vrai mousse de chene!!” Such was the strength of the oakmoss that I said the words with awe, and my head was practically spinning around like one of those possessed, crazy creatures in the Exorcist movies. Had I tested the final version of Army of Lovers — this version — I would never have said that. My summation for the fragrance would probably have been: “Jammy roses and musky, dirty leather.”
The Army of Lovers that I recalled in my memory was so different in its oakmoss levels from the one I received for testing that I asked LM Parfums if changes had been made. I was told that Army of Lovers had been tweaked to comply with IFRA regulations, that coriander was added to the top, and that the perfume was made much stronger. It’s pretty evident to me that the quantity of that gorgeous, real oakmoss had to be reduced in order for the fragrance to pass the mandatory IFRA compliance test, and that the coriander was added to strengthen the illusion of greenness.
Shimmering mirage or not, the oakmoss has a really profound effect on Army of Lovers, a most positive one. It elevates the dirtiness of the equine leather and the basic-ness of simple fruitchouli roses into a blend that feels more elegant and sophisticated. As I said at the start, Army of Lovers conjures up some mix of Downton Abbey and Ralph Lauren’s whole “British aristocrats” theme in my mind, except this one sometimes sneaks off to have an illicit, very raunchy, sexual romp with a dirty gamekeeper in the stables, à la Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Army of Lovers continues to shift by slow degrees. The Norlimbanol emerges more noticeably after 20 minutes, though it was a strong force at the start on my skin when I applied a small quantity of the fragrance. It is an aromachemical from Firmenich which is described as having an “[e]xtremely powerful woody and animal amber note.” LM Parfums seems to love using Norlimbanol, but I’m afraid I rather hate it. In general and here. On my skin, its aroma in Army of Lovers is much more powerful than it is in Hard Leather or Black Oud. In fact, the first time I tried it, I applied only a single spray and the quantity of Norlimbanol that greeted me from the start really put me off. I certainly don’t recall anything similar when I smelled the old version of the scent last year. My guess is that, when LM Parfums sought to increase Army of Lover’s strength, they did so by really amping up the Norlimbanol. I’m not enthused, though I will say that the aromachemical is more muffled when I applied 2 or more sprays of the fragrance. The greater quantity lets the other notes expand, and thereby diffuse the Norlimbanol’s sharpness.
As a whole, the first two hours of Army of Lovers is a fluctuating mix of rich, velvety, jammy roses and lightly spiced, dirty leather. The secondary notes vary in strength or visibility, but the perfume’s core remains the same. There are no violet tonalities on my skin; the spices feel wholly abstract and shapeless; and the honey sinks into the base after 40 minutes where it emerges once in a while in a more distinct way. By the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the third, the chypre-like greenness feels even more ghostly and nebulous than it did before. Meanwhile, the rose grows weaker, trailing behind the musky, sweetened, animalic leather. The latter continues to smell horsey with a touch of the barnyard about to it, even though that nuance is significantly weaker than it was at the start. I have to stress that it is not fecal on me, but I really don’t know how it will translate on other people’s skin and I have to admit that I worry a little about that.
All the notes overlap at this point, and every passing hour blurs things even more. Other than the leather, everything feels like a hazy suggestion. The rose retreats completely to the edges at the end of the 3rd hour, but the idea of a “rose” remains via the very jammy fruit-chouli. There is little actual greenness as a solid, distinct layer, and yet the mirage of a “chypre” continues, even if it’s just a vibe and feeling more than anything else. There is some vestige of spiced, honeyed sweetness, but it’s wholly abstract now. The breakdown of what is left would be something like: 70% skanky, animalic leather; 20% jammy patchouli; 5% rose; and 5% for a hazy mix of oakmoss, honey, and spices.
The most noticeable change is the fact that the barnyard undertone finally leaves at the start of the 4th hour. There isn’t even a drop of the stables or barnyard now, only a muskiness that is fully fused with the Norlimbanol and has a slightly golden warmth about it. Once in a while, there is a hint of something like a tobacco woodiness about the leather, but it doesn’t last for long.
Since I think the transformation of the leather will be a problem for some people, it may make things easier if I chart out the timeline as clearly as possible. The leather is:
- definitely fecal for the first 10 minutes;
- then has a distinct, strong barnyard undertone (not top note) for the next two hours;
- roughly 2.5 hours in, it’s primarily skanky and animalic, with only a microscopic whiff of the stables; and
- finally, it is merely musky and animalic from the 3.5 hour mark onwards.
By the end of the 4th hour, Army of Lovers is centered almost entirely on musky leather with jammy patchouli and Norlimbanol. There is a speck of greenness hovering in the far distance but, if you squint, you’ll miss it entirely.
Army of Lovers continues on the same path with few changes until the middle of the 8th hour. At that point, the Norlimbanol finally blooms into amber, casting a golden haze over everything. There is a suggestion of something vaguely reminiscent of creamy woods lurking deep in the base, but it’s such an indistinct, wispy note that it lacks much character. It lacks the Shea butter nuance of Cashmeran, and it definitely doesn’t smell like sandalwood, either Mysore or the Australian kind. It’s simply abstract creaminess.
Army of Lovers is now mainly warm, golden, ambered, musky leather with slivers of jammy patchouli, woodiness, and creaminess. It remains that way until its end, dying as a blur of dry, slightly woody, ambered warmth with a wisp of something musky about it. All in all, Army of Lovers lasts 12.5 hours on my skin with 3 small sprays from my decant, and just over 8.75 hours with 2. I can’t account for the difference except to say that this is a fragrance that consistently performed better when I applied a larger amount.
In terms of sillage, Army of Lovers was also very consistent. It always opened with about 3 inches, no matter how much I applied. It was a very concentrated, strong cloud, but it was also airier and softer than I had expected. Army of Lovers doesn’t have the sort of full-bodied feel that one experiences with extrait concentrations from other brands, but its sillage and depth is roughly consistent with that of Hard Leather. The press release for Army of Lovers described it as a “skin” scent, but I think the fragrance is stronger and more powerful than that description would imply. That said, it is soft in weight and feel, and the projection is only moderate when taken as a whole. At the end of the 2nd hour, Army of Lovers had dropped to an inch above the skin with 2 sprays, and to 1.5 inches with 3 sprays. The perfume became a skin scent on me at the 4.5 and 5-hour marks, respectively.
One thing I want to clarify is that I received a small decant whose nozzle aperture is larger than that on the regular LM Parfums bottles. (I did a comparison, and the circle is bigger on the decant.) So, I suspect that the amount I applied would actually be the equivalent of 3.5 and 2.5 sprays from a regular bottle. I think if you apply only a single spray of Army of Lovers, it will be a very soft scent indeed, as it was on my skin.
Army of Lovers was just released yesterday, so there are no reviews for the fragrance for me to provide you with comparative analysis. Since you’re stuck with me for now, I though that the best way that I could summarize the development, feel, and vibe of the fragrance was to show you via images that it conjures up in my mind. It always starts in the barnyard or stables with some poop, but the perfume soon turns into a muskier, much raunchier, dirtier Lady Chatterley’s Lover version of this:
before it finally ends up with a vibe like this:
Or, from a full-action, sweaty polo match like this:
To something whose vibe is more like this:
Before eventually evoking this:
Army of Lovers costs €295, $345 or £295 for 100 ml of pure parfum extrait. It is available now from LM Parfums and its affiliate, Premiere Avenue, which is also owned by Laurent Mazzone. I suspect the distribution situation will be the same as it was for Hard Leather last year. There, the fragrance was exclusive to the two Laurent Mazzone sites for all of November and December. Then, after the new year, in January, LM Parfums released Hard Leather worldwide. It may be the same thing for Army of Lovers, though I am not absolutely certain.
As a whole, I liked parts of Army of Lovers, but I don’t think it’s a scent for me. For one thing, I’m plagued by the memory of what I originally smelled. Most people don’t get the opportunity to try a fragrance in its mid-development, so it’s not fair of me to compare, but I can’t help it. Yet, even if I knew nothing but the final version, the Norlimbanol would make Army of Lovers difficult for me. I simply don’t like the powerful aroma-chemical, and I have an acute sensitivity to a large quantity of it as well. On a few occasions, Army of Lovers gave me a small headache when I sniffed it up close for too long. Yet, most people have no problems with it at all, so please see this as simply a personal issue. Finally, I struggled with the extent and duration of the perfume’s equine skankiness. Horsiness ruined Mazzolari‘s Lui for me as well, despite my huge love for patchouli — and the note is stronger and longer-lasting here. However, I know many others haven’t found Lui’s earthiness to be horsey or dirty, so it’s really going to come down to individual skin chemistry. My suggestion is to sample and test first.
If you enjoy earthy, musky leather chypres and don’t mind a strong bit of skanky, bawdy animalics in your fragrance, then Army of Lovers might suit you very well. The first few hours may smell raunchy, but it’s a very expensive, aristocratic sort of dirtiness that is filled with luxurious roses and a sense of sophistication. One thing is for certain, Army of Lovers stands out amongst the many leather or chypre fragrances on the market. It won’t be for everyone but, on the right skin, it could smell very sexy indeed.
Disclosure: My decant of Army of Lovers was provided courtesy of LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.