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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Royal Hunt

Paper Blood

Review by Gary Hill

I came to this disc with a bit of trepidation. Frankly, having spoken with former Hunt vocalist D.C. Cooper on a couple of occasions and finding him to be one of the best hard rock/metal vocalists out there, part of me was afraid to hear what Hunt sounded like without him. Granted, they have released some material since Cooper's parting ways with the group, but this was the first disc I heard in that time period. While this is not the strongest album Hunt has ever produced (Paradox is incredibly hard to beat - in fact, it's one of my two or three favorite albums of all time by anyone), this one is a strong contender for album of the year. It certainly carries on the tradition of their stellar hybrid of metal with neo-classical and neo-progressive music. And, make no mistake, while vocalist John West doesn't sound a lot like Cooper, he is an incredible talent in his own right, and pulls it off with style. For fans of prog metal who have yet to hear this band, start with Paradox, but Royal Hunt fans, rejoice, as there is a new stellar release from Andre Andersen and the rest of the band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Break Your Chains
The sound of an orchestra tuning start this, then a dramatic bombastic orchestral segment that feels like one part "Mars" by Holst and one part something from Star Wars takes it to the metallic flourish that represents the jump to the song proper. This is a killer fast paced neo classically tinged smoker with a great vocal arrangement. This is epic neo classical prog metal at its best. An instrumental passage later includes some killer keyboard work, at times dancing around the guitar.
Not My Kind
Starting with mildly processed vocals a killer riff takes it in short order. As keys come over top this feels like a super heavy, super powerful Deep Purple for a short time. Then keys lay down lines of melody over top until a bluesy, but still ultra heavy jam takes it. This turns to a frantic prog metal jam, then eventually a short processed spoken word segment gives way to a tasty instrumental section that contains both keyboard and guitar soloing extraordinaire. They return to the main fast paced section later. This is another killer.
Memory Lane
Keys start this in almost an old movie way at first, then more in something that feels a bit like Elton John's "Funeral For a Friend". This gives way to percussion, then a killer staccato pattern. This turn into a strong excursion with major emphasis on both the keys and the guitars. This instrumental would be strong on most albums, but competing with the other material here it comes across as middle of the road.
Never Give Up
Another neo-classically-tinged segment makes up the opening sequence there. They jump into another smoking prog metal jam. This has one of the strongest instrumental breaks of the whole disc.
Seven Days
This one is a little more straightforward in the intro, then drops to a mellower keyboard dominated ballad like section. It ramps up a bit both in intensity and volume and runs through like that until a new metal romp takes it with a processed spoken vocal. It then transitions into an instrumental passage which includes another killer keyboard journey. As it makes its way back is in a metal stomper mode with some great vocal overtones. Then some more instrumental interplay takes the track into new territory. These guys truly smoke here, keys and guitar trading solos.
SK983
This is another frantic fast paced neo-classically tinged metallic number. It is a fiery instrumental throughout much of its length, then drops back to sedate with chorale type non lyrical vocals. Then a more accessible rocking segment takes over. This is definitely another winner.
Kiss of Faith
A bluesy, mellower jam starts this and gradually increases in intensity. After a time this moves up to another much in the same mold as the rest. It drops back to the bluesy later for a verse, then a percussion solo heralds a return to where it came from. Overall this one feels most like a cross between bands like Whitesnake and Deep Purple with just a touch of the neo-classical thrown in. It drops to the mellow again, then a short burst gives way to the outro.
Paper Blood
A frantic oh, so meaty, stomp starts the title track. The band works over top of this tasty theme then drop it to something that feels a lot like Ripper Owens era Priest. They ramp it back up to the neo classical epic territory after that. The lyrics on this one are purely killer and with varied textures, smoking guitar work and overall powerful nature; this is possibly the best track on this killer disc. The ending segments of this one are priceless as the band launches into one of the best jams on the album.
Season's Change
A keyboard-dominated progression takes this through a crescendo. Then a balladic mode takes it, moving it forward in a tasty manner. This one is a definite change of pace, focusing more on a turbo charged ballad style throughout the majority of the cut. The vocals on this one are especially powerful and the keys are awe-inspiring, as is a guitar solo. This one is different, but a major triumph.
Twice Around the World
This instrumental comes in frantic and hard. It moves through a number of changes and instrumental explorations that gives all the musicians their chance to shine, everyone taking a solo. Still, this rocker, which would have been strong on other albums just is not as strong as most of the rest of the disc. That's entirely about how good the rest of the CD is, though, rather than any weakness in this one.
Edge of The World - Bonus Track
A tolling bell starts this, then a meaty bluesy metal romp takes it. This almost feels like Metallica in its smoking crunch fest. Black Sabbath also shows up a bit in the sound. This becomes a hard-edged gritty rocker that works quite well. This one is a lot less proggy than the other material here and is a nice change of pace.
Game of Fear - Bonus Track
This one is a very cool super heavy, but also super proggy jam. It is another smoker and a great way to end a fantastic CD. 
 
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