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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Royal Hunt

Collision Course

Review by Gary Hill

This CD is considered to be Paradox Part II. Well, since Paradox is one of my all time favorite discs, I had high hopes for this one. Does it tie into that album’s story line? Well, I didn’t get a lyric sheet, but from what I’ve picked up, I’d say it does. There are even musical quotes to link the two discs. The question is, does this one stand as tall as that one? I’d have to say, “no.” In fact, I wouldn’t consider it as strong a disc as Moving Target.  That said, both of those discs were masterpieces and certainly no band is capable of delivering flawless masterpiece after flawless masterpiece. This one is exceptionally strong. It’s just that to compare it to those two discs is a pretty high standard.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Principles of Paradox
The sounds of a storm begin this. An acoustic guitar based motif – with musical themes from the Paradox album begin this, making the long time listener feel right at home. They work through several themes from that disc in instrumental format, giving us a sort of aural recap of the CD and new variants upon it. This gets quite classical and if the whole album were like this it would fit into progressive rock rather than metal. Processed vocals come in over the top of this and they build up in new ways as they carry forward. This is still very much pure symphonic prog. It crescendos and is reborn around the three minute mark. With drama building it feels like it might fire out into pure metal. As a bass guitar enters to drive things, this works out into more crunchy prog territory, feeling a bit like Dream Theater. It’s around the four minute mark where it finally marches out into more pure metal zones. Even then it isn’t long for classical and prog rock elements make their way across this backdrop. They move this whole beast forward in a smoking instrumental fashion. We get a killer Keith Emerson like keyboard solo on this. This track leads straight into the next one.

The First Rock
With a killer prog keyboard based arrangement pulling us in from the last track, this one explodes out into symphonic metal after a short time and we’re in business here. This is a real screamer, but still has plenty of prog and symphonic elements in place to keep it from being pedestrian metal. We are treated to a great classically tinged metal jam later that really is classic Royal Hunt. They move the track through a number of varying forms and progressions as they carry it forward. It turns quite classical later, but still there is enough metal to keep anyone from thinking they’ve put in some new symphony orchestra disc. This again segues straight into the next piece.

Exit Wound
Keyboard oriented, classically tinged balladic stylings begin the proceedings here and carry it for a time. More metallic sounds enter and start to show their power, but it’s a while before it shifts into a full metal arrangement. Even then there are plenty of other things going on. We get mellower sections on this, but overall this is another screaming metal cut that’s got all the things we’ve come to expect from Royal Hunt. We get a rather operatic treatment at one point, but they return to the more typical symphonic metal. A classically tinged interlude segues into the next piece.
Divide and Reign
This fires out with symphonic metal power and is another frantic killer of a song. They work through a wide range of varying sounds and modes here. It even moves near to death metal in one segment. This is another classically tinged metal screamer that’s typical Royal Hunt.
High Noon at the Battlefield
This pretty and dramatic prog ballad is a nice change of pace. It’s evocative and powerful. Midsong they shift out to powerhouse heavy metal. It works its way after a time into a more symphonic take and then we are back into the ballad approach. At times we get hints of Pink Floyd on this section. They turn it quite dramatic with a TV soundbite of someone on a fascist rant. During this time the music becomes extremely powerful. It starts to power back out into metal territory and this takes us into the next track.
The Clan
Fulfilling the metal promise given to us by the previous track, this one fires out in a more traditional metal manner. We get sections and overlayers to bring in the symphonic elements, but overall this is a bit like something Dio do. They take us out into more symphonic landscapes, but then move into a blistering metal guitar solo with Eastern tinges to the backing sounds. This gives way to a rare beast in metal, a bass solo that’s quite cool. Then the whole group works through some symphonic sounds. A frantic section has some definite classical progressions. It takes us to a keyboard solo that smokes in an Emersonian way. Then we’re back into the song proper to carry on. A crescendo gives way to ambience that segues into the next piece.
Blood In Blood Out
This rises up gradually from the textural sounds that started it. Hints of more symphonic metal textures appear here and there in the arrangement, but the cut fails to truly explode out for a while. Eventually it does pound into symphonic metal territory, though. They shift it out to a great balladic section for the verse. Then it works out into Eastern tinged metal as they keep going. They come back to the ballad section and up the ante in terms of crunch and power. This is one of the most effective tracks on show here and they revisit and rework the various portions of the track as they move it onward. A killer melodic hard rock groove is a nice touch and includes some tasty guitar work. It feels a bit Pink Floyd like and gives way to a keyboard dominated section and a powerhouse instrumental jam. This works its way back to the song proper and they put a world music movement in the midst of this, too.
Tears of the Sun
Once more they bring this straight out of the previous track. Female vocals begin this in dramatic ways. Then Mark Boals answers her with his own voice. They fire out from there into a new symphonic crunch journey that’s quite powerful. This extended instrumental section takes us up to the next verse, this one a more traditional metal approach, but still laden with classical elements. They turn in a very classical section and then move back to another rock jam and then we get another powerhouse jam to take us to the outro. An echoey keyboard thing takes us into the next number. 
Hostile Breed
The sound of someone chanting followed by crowd responses open this. The group come in with a powerful dramatic prog metal ballad styling. I hear hints of Brutal Planet Alice Cooper here.  This powers out with majesty and drama and then cuts back to a keyboard driven section. Then we are back into the song proper to keep going. While in some ways this is not all that different from the rest of the album, this is a killer ride and an awesome piece of symphonic metal. It moves through a series of changes and is a highlight of the disc. We get a short middle Eastern segment midsong.
Chaos A.C.
The riff that starts this is just plain mean. They work through with this sound for a while, building on it and creating various patterns of sound and melody within. This is a definite powerhouse, but it’s perhaps not the strongest cut on show here. It drops back to a short mellower segment to end.
 
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