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Concepts locked in Roman darkness. - 92%

hells_unicorn, December 24th, 2013

The concept album is a medium that can either make a band or cost them a massive share of their credibility, but in many cases it tends to be a format that works well in the metal world. Particularly when dealing with the dark past of humanity, the ebb and flow of depravity throughout history provides a trustworthy template for the extreme metal craftsman. Be this as it may, Paradox doesn't really embody extremity in the way that it is usually thought of in a post early 90s death metal and post mid 90s black metal world, though they do exhibit an edgy, hard-hitting approach that would have been considered quite extreme had it not been for a number of truly groundbreaking expansions of the thrash metal genre in the mid 80s. Nevertheless, there is a time-appropriateness to this band's sophomore endeavor "Heresy" in relation to a number of similar exploits on the opposite side of the Atlantic, as the embryonic death metal sounds of Possessed and Slayer weren't the only things that the Germans imported into their own scene and further developed.

To dispense with the obvious, this isn't an album that really approaches the vile thrashing madness of the Teutonic trio, and even comes off as a bit consonant and melodic when compared to the more comical character of Tankard or the catchier take on the thrash question embodied in Vendetta. In truth, this is more along the lines of the technical, power metal oriented take on the style embodied by the mind-trip oriented political dissent of New York's own Toxik and the Sci-Fi obsessed Agent Steel, with a helping of structured control and a slightly heavier sounding guitar tone more in line with Anthrax and mid-80s Metallica. It's a very satisfying formula that showcases an album shaped more by nuance than bluntness, and also one that is able to exhibit the precision character of the style while not aping off the signature Bay Area sound that was popularized by Testament and subsequently spread to a number of bands in England, Australia and even Sweden.

From the start, it appears that Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" played a role in the shaping of this album, as it plays off a similarly epic approach to songwriting, though they do a far better job at mixing it up without either getting bogged down in repeating riffs or wandering off into half-cocked interludes into other styles. The opener and title song "Heresy" begins with a haunting acoustic solo prelude that sounds almost improvised, having an ironically cheerful tone at times like heard on "Fight Fire With Fire", but then moving into a somber melody once the distortion kicks in, and proceeds to speed and shift around like a slightly less frenetic version of something off Toxik's "World Circus". Perhaps most auspicious off all the elements at play here is the vocal work, which sounds a lot like Joey Belladonna with maybe just a slight touch of John Cyriis, particularly during the occasional high shrieks scattered about.

While this album proceeds to unfold in fits and starts of varying degrees of intensity, there is a constant feel of bundled up energy, culminating in 9 individual journeys through the moderated crossroads of power, speed and thrash metal. "Search For Perfection" tends to embody the slightly slower, galloping NWOBHM roots of power metal and early thrash, almost like an elaborate revamp of what Iron Maiden had done in the mid 80s. "Kill Time" goes a bit heavy on tremolo riff work and almost seems to preempt the melodic death metal style that would crop out of Sweden in the mid 90s, though the vocals remain entrenched in clean territory. "Crusader's Revenge" definitely leans into Bay Area territory at times, namely Testament's "The Legacy", though with even more lead guitar gymnastics and gallops. A similar mixture of Testament infused riff work and Toxik technical mastery tends to permeate the rest of the album, and becomes particularly pronounced and highly effective on "Massacre Of The Cathars" and "700 Years On".

It's a foregone conclusion that anyone who wants a more intense version of heavy metal while still being able to grasp onto the melodic character of its infancy will be drawn to this like a moth to a candle. I'm probably in the minority in asserting that "Product Of Imagination" was a slightly better album, but it's largely a matter of whether one prefers a slightly more primitive version of this style or a more refined one, much as was the case with Toxik's "World Circus" vs. "Think This". Pretty much the only thing that separates this from the USPM bands that dabbled in thrash either in New York or elsewhere in the mid to late 80s is a less exaggerated vocal character, and it tends to serve Paradox well as they tend to have a more riff centered approach and tend to use the vocals for conveyance of lyrical subjects rather than as a competing instrument with the lead guitarist. In short, essential listening, for fans of USPM and thrash alike.

No question, a heresy not to like this one - 94%

slayrrr666, June 21st, 2013

The second full-length from German power/thrash combo Paradox, “Heresy,” sees the band develop their style even more than their previous effort and have hone themselves into a tight, cohesive and destructive package that was signaled from the beginning and showcases an evolution quite effectively.

While there is a noticeable difference here with one element of the band’s sound coming into focus, on the whole this is really no different from their debut. Far from the typical German thrash band of incorporating a dirty, heavy guitar sound that formed a basis for early black metal, the compositions here are far lighter and more melodic, leaning more to the traditional/power metal side of the spectrum and even recalling many of the US-styled power metal bands at the time. As a result, the band is almost a speed metal band playing traditional heavy metal covers with its light and easy-to-absorb leanings, and it gets far more prevalent as the album continues on with a bit of diversity here, some songs tending to focus on an intense and aggressive riff while others opt for a quieter and melodic feel. While this is not a band that delves in the slower side of the melodic spectrum, instead the hyper-speed style on display here, mainly propelled by the furious thunder of the drums that never seem to slow or back off all that much, allows the melodic side of the band to come through and dominate the proceedings with devastating effect that keeps the songs imminently listenable and infectious. As well, the vocals never have any of the viciousness or snarl of the typical thrash singer and remain of a more melodic nature, again a definite product of their past and makes the songs all the more appealing.

As alluded to earlier, there is a minor difference here in the band that makes this one so much more appealing than its predecessor and yet never feels like it’s been a stylistic flavor that was added or removed solely for this release. Whereas the debut had a tone and feel to it that was eerily reminiscent of USPM from the mid-to-late 80s, here the band sounds more like the bay area style of thrash than ever before and might be mistaken to be a proponent of that format if one’s not paying close enough attention. The main genesis for this is the increased favoring of technical thrash riffing in favor of the simplistic speed-metal offerings on the debut, which when mixed together in the final product was almost first-generation German power metal. There’s a definite crunch and chug amongst the guitars that has a tone and style straight from the scene and has little-to-none of the power metal atmosphere present on the first release, as the technically-advanced riffing that crawls all over the tracks here enables such comparisons to be made. As this was a feature found on the first record in minor patches throughout that record, to see the evolution carry into here with such spectacular results is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Being that there’s a lot to like here in the music, the songs themselves are immensely enjoyable. The title track starts things off with a haunting acoustic intro that gives way to pounding technical-laced speed-metal thrashing that signals the bands’ evolution right off the bat with it’s more involving riffing making it so memorable and enjoyable. ‘Search for Perfection’ contains even more technical riffing coupled with melodic choruses and some sterling solos in an up-tempo pace that’s wholly enjoyable, making for another highlight offering. The album’s best song, ‘Killtime,’ might seem out-of-place as it’s a return to the melodic speed metal from their debut, but is still filled with intense and technical riffing with some memorable melodic choruses that seem to gel so cohesively with the riffing that it’s absolutely infectious and memorable throughout, remaining the only link back to their past amongst the material here. ‘Crusaders Revenge’ returns to more typical fare with an aggressive riffing intro that’s mixed with blazing and intense thrash with a spectacular solo section highlighted by pounding drums to create another strong track. The minor amount of experimental elements found here belong to ‘The Burning,’ with acoustic guitars bookend some amazing technical riffing with a mid-tempo pace and lots of melodic leanings to make for a unique experience amongst the traditional-leaning thrash. Another highlight, ‘Massacre of the Cathars,’ has more blazing riffs and up-tempo pace combine into a thrashing maelstrom of melodic-leaning thrash that’s far more destructive than possible. The charging ‘Serenity’ is an absolute barnburner featuring an up-tempo pace with frenetic riffing and melodic choruses with technical solos and amazing sense of grandeur that might be the second-best track on the album overall. The technically-proficient ‘700 Years On’ is where the band really lets loose with its complex riffing intentions with some of the most challenging and intense patterns in their career yet never forgets to stay with a melodic touch within their music to keep it all memorable and accessible, while the short instrumental ‘Castle in the Wind’ ends it all with a melancholy acoustic guitar fluttering away.

There’s no doubt this is overall quite impressive and immensely enjoyable, as the band is coming into a style all their own with a technical-laced combination of melodic thrash and power metal that is insanely addictive at times and devastating at others. While this mix might not be for the majority of thrash fans due to it’s increased sense of melody and memorable hooks that are favored over the lack of aggressive and more intense thrash at the time which might account for the lengthy down-time between albums, but this is still too catchy and enjoyable not to be ignored by the masses out there. It’s definitely enjoyable enough for most thrash fans to give it a look as there’s no shortage of good stuff here, and definitely those not into the more up-front and vicious thrash might also want to give this a chance, but really there’s no reason why this can’t be looked into by most for it’s that good at what it does.

Not a favourite...so sue me. - 70%

Seducerofsouls85, June 5th, 2011

I never saw Paradox as the unsung hero of the 80's German thrash scene, as many often like to point out. "Heresy" was a good album, but without sounding too up my own ass, I can completely understand why this offering might have ended up in a charity shop, or ended up on E-bay, because the novelty wears off fast. The opener "Heresy" has some pretty memorable riffs, and a few curveballs which keep me interested. The next few tracks seem to merge into one another from here on. There is not much memorability, and it becomes quite montone and tiresome. I know the lyrics are based on real events, but shit every song is pretty much about the same thing. Crusades, anti-christian themes, and the intolerance of the clergy. Not that the lyrics offend me in the slightest, it's just concept albums do not usually fair well for the most part in my eyes.

"700 years on" is where my attention span picks up a little, but by this point my day really could have been spent doing better things. "Castle in the wind" is a gentle acoustic instrumental that sees us out. I like the idea of power-thrash, and other bands turn me on more than Paradox. Some riffs sound really original, and the structures are progressive and quite impressive. In some of the more raw abrasive areas, they beat Kreator, Sodom or Destruction at their own game. But the good bits are few and far between. If you ask me the dull riffs occur more than the memorable ones by a ratio of 8:1. If you have one of the 2000 limited edition re-issues (I actually bought this because I sold my original copy way back. This album wasn't as popular as I must have thought, because I never saw another original issue since!), then no doubt you have heard the bonus tracks. You have two demos that being "The burning" and "The massacre of the cathars." Seriously only the avid fan would be interested, and I just thought they were even slacker and more tinny than the final products. I know demos aren't meant to sound good, but the actual songs never had much staying power when all is said and done. You also have a live video of "Heresy." Again, nothing to write home about, and only worth watching out of absolute curiosity. This is not a completely terrible album, I guess I never understood what all the fuss was about. I was way consumed by other releases of the same year, but I'm not going to blame timing for my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to this album. Worth picking up. I recently purchased it for old times, and in places there was potential, the main reason I never actually forgot this band.

Within the throes of thrash enlightenment - 90%

autothrall, October 15th, 2010

Heresy is yet another fine example of German craftsmanship, coming at such a time as the country was pouring out a large percent of Europe's best thrash metal, and marked a superb evolution in the sound of Paradox. Not to say that the band's debut, Product of Imagination was necessarily a slouch, it was a crude but promising stampede of harsher melodic thrash/speed metal that mirrored the earlier work of Deathrow or Vendetta, but song for song it's only vaguely memorable. By comparison, this conceptual sophomore was stunning, and the obvious effort shines through as both the songwriting and musical proficiency have been ramped up considerably. It also sets the stage for the remainder of the band's catalog, in particular their recent fare like Electrify and Riot Squad, which simply gather up the building blocks of Heresy and amplify them into a new century of denser production and enhanced aggression.

It doesn't hurt that the album is so well organized, throwing thrills at you for almost the entire playtime. Right from the start (the title track), Paradox exhibit their balanced, precision assault, with a calming acoustic lullaby that explodes into dual melodic guitars that transition into a soaring, beautiful segment, then becoming choppier as they escalate into the verse with its superb, clinical riffing. Charly Steinhauer sounds like a more acidic, nasal alternative to Joey Belladonna during his prime, the Teutonic accent giving that same beloved spin it has done for so many other titans of the 80s. Great bridge rhythms and leads follow, and in the end, "Heresy" is simply a classic of powerful speed/thrash that has never lost its shine, decades after arrival. Were it the sole product of brilliance here, we might write off the band as having a mere spike of inspiration, but "Search for Perfection" continues along this path, choppier and harsher with its biting technical thrash riffing and a great chorus sequence.

"Killtime" intensifies the speed, with walls of eerie melody that both explode openly of their own, and transform into delightful mute picking sagas behind the desperation of the verse vocals. This is probably the closest track the band had here to fellow German geniuses Mekong Delta and Deathrow, and it rifles straight into another serious thrashing in "Crusader's Revenge", the bouncing arithmetic of the frenetic rhythm guitars making a fine counterpart to genocidal lyrics. "The Burning" revisits the acoustic passage before a mid-paced thrust that comes off like a more crisp, technical Exodus. A good song with potential, but only 1-2 riffs to die for. Such is not the case for "Massacre of the Cathars", one of the very best on offer, or the similar "700 Years On", both of which are nearly as 'classic' as "Heresy" itself. "Castle in the Wind" is a tasty instrumental that once again uses the clean guitars to create a shimmering, windy atmosphere, and "Serenity" delivers some fluid, consistent riffs.

When this album first dropped in the late winter of '89, I was listening to such wad blowing masterpieces as Pestilence's Mallevs Maleficarvum, Scanner's Hypertrace and Realm's Endless War, so I wasn't able to immediately absorb myself with it, at least outside of "Heresy" and a few other tracks. Through the years, though, my appreciation has only grown, and I feel like today it ultimately stands alongside their modern output, which has thus far been both elegant and destructive, one of the finer 'comebacks' in all of thrash, returning to what matters and then progressing it towards the future, permitting thrash metal to breathe novel life instead of the stale gas so many 'retro' bands exude. The production here is pure perfection for its day, and you'll immediately recognize it as the work of Harris John's Music Lab studio, responsible for a number of other classics. The effort is impossible to ignore here, and Paradox surpassed their debut album in every possible category. It might have take 11 years to follow this up, but it was certainly strong enough to maintain the listener's interest through that very gap, and beyond.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Feel The Power!!! - 90%

Cup_Of_Tea, February 23rd, 2005

On their second release again Paradox can do no harm at all. The only difference is that here Heresy is quite more melodic and thrash oriented than before.

The album starts with a slow aucustic intro on the song Heresy, a nice little thing, but the things to come are far more nicer. Nice might not be the word... try crushing. :)
I should mention the riffs on this album are very, very catchy and well executed. And when Heresy starts, it's that good old "what the fuck" when you hear them! Those riffs! Just too damn powerful, I can't even count them, they're that numerous and that good! The vocals are excellent, the music blends with them perfectly.
This album reminds me a bit of Laaz Rockit, but only in style, otherwise it's rarely original speedthrash metal.

The highlights are hard to find, since every song is a above average song.
Probably Kiltime and Crusaders Revenge since they rock real hard. But everything is a winner here. Definetly a worthy album.

The Ultimate Concept Album - 91%

overkill67, September 13th, 2004

This album is without a doubt the best conceptual album ever recorded. Lyrically, this album sparks a burning question about the injustices of catholocism against those who chose to follow a different diety. I've never been a big fan of religion...but this album tells a story of a different tune and by no means does it glorify religion.
Onto the music. Can you say theres another Riff? Well you'd better fuckin' get used to saying that again and again if you attempt to listen to this album, for it is chalk full of stellar guitar riffage with a crunch not that far off from Exodus. The solos and guitar harmonies are of a technical calibre and definately do not lack any sort of complexity. However, even though they are ridiculously complex, they are very interesting indeed and stay in key with the rythm underneath. Great guitar solos. and harmony interludes!
The bass lines for the most part are better than average and tend to sometimes do the occassional run by themselves, which only adds a different flavor from time to time to the music. Track #4 is probably the best example of how talented this bass player was. Also, another thing about this disc is the mix, you can actually hear the bass...and although the album is rather guitar driven, neither one of the other two instruments suffers.
The drumming is pretty exceptional and could probably be descriped as generic thrash metal drumming. Nothing too spectacular going on with the drums, but definately some cool double bass stuff and some very speedy patterns from time to time.
Lastly we have the vocals...well maybe not the highlight of the album,(that would be the guitars) but they're definately tolerable. Charly can sing, and he sings rather well...the question that ponders me from time to time is wheather or not his voice was a little bit of a burden for this album which never achieved any sort of popular status. He can sing though. He just sounds a little too wimpy for some of the songs brutally heavy riffs. The harmonies in the vocal department however are amazing and are some of the highlights on this disc.
Overall a great blend of Power/Thrash with intelligently penned lyrics and above average musical performances...worth owning.

"Orgasmic In Intensity" - 91%

Obelisk, November 8th, 2003

Talk about underpromoted and overlooked.. This is a lethal release from these German speed/thrashers, their second, and definitely their best -shortly afterwards, plagued by lineup changes, they have disbanded for a lengthy period of time.. And it's a fucking shame, since here they clearly were at their creative peak, putting out this lost gem that every speed metal fan should own.

Musically, it's on the thrashy side, with a heavy doze of melody, and it's no wonder, sometimes, why they wanted to associate themselves more with the power/speed metal crowd rather than the thrash one. The guitar tone is simply fucking amazing, the riffs never get recycled, and the melodical interludes and solos always have a meaning (except maybe for the slower section in the middle of the title track, but it notwithstanding, the album still maintains a consistently faster pace, with a couple of acoustic intros here and there). The songs are extremely catchy in their entireties, though the vocal melodies could've been a little more definitive; Charly is a fine singer with a decent voice, but the vocal melodies sometimes leave you desire for more. The lyrics are occassionally on a cheesy side, but never obnoxiously unbearable, since, after all, this is essentially a concept album, and an ambitious one at that, too.

There are eight songs on here (+ a little outro), all somehow tied up with the overall theme. It would probably be a challenge to get past the title track, which has got to be one of the catchiest thrash/speed songs ever written, but the rest of the album still provides the same energetic - and melodical at the same time - ferociousness. This shouldn't be that hard to get, considering that it was rereleased (along with their first effort, Product Of Imagination), all remastered and in tact. And compared to their debut, this has a very much more refined sound, taking the band on a whole new level.. If your music taste fluctuates somewhere in the area of Helloween, Grave Digger, Flotsam & Jetsam, Heathen, Agent Steel - BUY this if you get a chance.