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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Royal Hunt

Paradox

Review by Gary Hill

Although Royal Hunt are certainly no strangers to the international music scene (they are quite popular in many countries, and this is their 5th album), they are, thus far, fairly unheard of in the United States. This album is somewhat similar to Queensryche`s Operation Mindcrime album in that it contains elements of heavy metal, progressive rock and neo-classical work. It is also arguably a concept album (in fact the band often performs it as one piece, as a rock opera). This has actually become one of my favorite albums. The lyrical content of this work explores such themes as disillusionment, death and religion. The personnel on this CD are Andre Anderson, Steen Mogensen, Jacob Kjoer, D. C. Cooper (who was a finalist for the job of replacing Rob Halford in Judas Priest), a sideman drummer, and three guests doing backing vocals.

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Track by Track Review
The Awakening
A short track, this song begins with an acoustic guitar based section, somewhat in the vein of Queensryche`s Operation Mindcrime era, before evolving into a Native American based part that serves as a segue into the next piece. This as an emotional piece that seems to serve as a prelude to a glorious and frightening future. "Standing at the crossroads, waiting for the storm".
River of Pain
This number is very much in the vein of Queensryche`s Mind Crime, but also contains some very Deep Purpleish type leanings. This is also a bit more progressive than either of the aforementioned styles. Containing some very strong vocal work, this song is a lament to all the darkness and pain in the world. "I watch my people dying, I watch them go, I don`t know where", and "river of pain-spirit never dies", are some good examples of this theme. Contains an organ solo which sounds much like Jon Lord. The section which immediately follows that organ solo is also much in the vein of modern Deep Purple, but with some keyboard work which is rather uncharacteristic of Deep Purple. The piece then drops back into the Queensryche influenced mode. Eventually it makes its way back to the Deep Purple vein, before dropping back down to a Native American based drum segment, with a spoken word, revolutionary monologue. This continues while there is a nice keyboard build up which serves as a segue into the next song.
Tearing Down the World
This song appears to be a plan to tear down all the preconcieved societal standards by tearing down all of the current civilization and starting from scratch. "Tearing down-by bits and pieces, To the ground-we`ll never miss it". A very nice combination of heavy metal and neo-classical stylings, with some very energetic percussion work, this song is quite strong. The guitar solo here is typical of many heavy metal solos, but is followed by a very nice keyboard break, which is considerably more unique and very Classically oriented.
Message To God
Beginning with some nice, Classically oriented piano work; this track rapidly shifts gear into a very nice progrock type riff-laden structure with a heavy metal sort of sound. Very nicely quirky, this song seems to be a criticism of organized religion and it`s closed minded crusades against other religions. "We`re busy burning witches the way we learned from you, We`re good at killing creatures, so teach us something new". Containing more of those Deep Purple leanings and some fine keyboard work, this is one of the best songs on the album. Message to God has a rather dramatic finish.
Long Way Home
Nice acoustic guitar/keyboard work start this number. Once the vocals come in, the first verse of this one is quite pretty and poignant. Then, for verse two, the track is predominantly keyboard based, with the keys having a very string section sort of feel. By the end of this verse, the rest of the band comes in and the song becomes a very nicely done, metallic ballad. There is a very short segment which seems to have a similar tone to Alice Cooper`s Welcome to My Nightmare era. Contains some more straight ahead heavy metal moments, but in general Long Way Home is a nice ballad. "It`s a long road, but even longer for the blind, And I`ve been searching way too long."
Time Will Tell
Beginning with a nice rhythmic piece of work, once the keyboards start to come in, this song takes on more of those neo-classical flavorings. Even though the keyboard work at the beginning of the song are deep in the mix, they actually add a lot on an almost subconscious level. The song goes into an almost Yesish section before moving back into the Queensryche based mode. Time Will Tell contains some very nice Classically oriented string section sounding keyboard work and some very quirky changes. "Time will tell-you`re reaching for the star, but only time will tell if shadows from the past will bring you hell". Parts of this song are very pretty with some quite nice backing vocals-very dramatic in places. A very interesting section, based on string section voiced keyboards and dramatic Gregorian chant styled vocals, leads into the nice metallic/neoclassical finale of this song.
Silent Scream
"If living is my cross, so let me die, or crucify me now, but tell me, can you hear my silent scream?" This track begins with some pretty keyboard work, leading into some VERY classically oriented music, almost in a Yes sort of vein, but with a more metallic sound. This song has a very quirky arrangement, musically changing and reorganizing with nearly every line of lyrics. There are lots of twists and turns to this one. Silent Scream moves seamlessly into the next track, "It`s Over".
It's Over
This one is a very dramatic piece, quite classically oriented, but in a metal ballad sort of mode, about a modern day Christ, heading towards the same fate as he had last time. "I`m on the same path to the cross as last time, they`ll crucify me once again". It`s Over contains some rather pretty, almost jazz oriented, acoustic guitar work, followed by a very pretty keyboard segment. This gives way to an electric guitar solo, followed by some quite classical work, which leads into the final chorus of the song. A sad song, but the ending music still conveys a very triumphant sort of mood, before a very brief reprise of Long Way Home.
Martial Arts:Bonus Track
This short instrumental starts off almost in the mode of King Diamond, but has some blisteringly quick and quirky instrumental work.
The Final Lullaby:Bonus Track
Starting with more acoustic guitar/vocal based stylings, this is a pretty, and yet powerful ballad. With it`s lyrical ending themes, this is a very good track with which to close the album. "It`s the chime of a silent bell, The tune of farewell, It`s the scream of a wishing well, He`s crossing the final day".
 
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