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There was definitely a magic to the era of ambiguity that existed between thrash, speed and power metal in the mid 1980s, one that transcended national borders and found itself with a healthy contingent of bands both states side and co-existing in Germany with its more dangerous Teutonic counterparts. The notion of a synthesis between multiple styles that had just barely been fleshed out seems a sentiment bordering on anachronistic, but it is a good way of understanding the veritable bio-diversity of sorts that existed in certain archetype outfits by way of hindsight. What is often understood as the current German concept of speed/power metal and also certain strains of contemporary USPM owe a good deal of its existence to precedents set during this time period, be it from the likes of Agent Steel, Toxik, Watchtower, and their German counterparts Angel Dust and the more Sci-Fi tinged Paradox, of which their high octane, otherworldly debut Product Of Imagination is a seminal offering.
Naturally when dealing with an album that is largely in line with its time, comparisons to a number of similarly oriented outfits like the aforementioned American and German acts lead to inevitable points of contrast. In keeping with this, it is important to note that this album doesn't necessarily hold all three of its exhibited styles equally, as the overall drive and character of this album is geared more toward a mid-80s thrash sound than a speed or power metal affair, though the two latter styles play a significant role in the peripheral detailing. In contrast to the falsetto/head voice steeped heights that typified World Circus, Unstoppable Force and the earlier yet stylistically comparable Energetic Disassembly, the vocal approach takes on more of a gruff character, though it is a bit higher it pitch than a typical Bay Area take on the style and is a bit less vicious and more polished than Schmier. Musically, it is closer to the bands and albums in question, particularly in terms of speed and pacing, though the riff work is a bit heavier and closer to a Nuclear Assault mode of thrashing.
Most of this album thrives on varying levels of speed and mid-tempo territory is fairly rare, hence the speed metal part of the equation, as the mid 80s began seeing more relaxing of the tempo in favor of a progressive tinge brought in by Master Of Puppets in thrash quarters, by which this album is completely untouched. The frenzied madness of the band's own title song "Paradox" and "Beyond Space" are easily pinnacles of the style, outclassing much of Germany's lesser known two album wonders such as Vectom and Iron Angel, whereas even some of the more nuanced songs that bring in some degree of moderation end up in the throws of light speed at some point, such as "Mystery" and "Kill That Beast", the latter taking some heavy cues from the nimble riffing style pioneered by Dave Mustaine on Kill 'Em All, falling just short of quoting "Four Horsemen" at a few points. All the while there is a constant melodic tinge to the music which, while not reflected in the vocals, points to an older heavy/power metal tinge that is somewhat reminiscent of Judas Priest and Crimson Glory.
Auspicious moments are littered all over this entire album, but some of the truly spellbinding points of interest are when the band makes an occasional deviation from their formula in favor of something a bit more forward looking. Chief among these is the guitar solo style that sprinkles over every single song on here, which is highly reminiscent of a wild shredding style that borrows heavily from the tapping craziness of Van Halen, and stumbles into the same territory that Judas Priest would begin exhibiting on Ram It Down and bring to full fruition on Painkiller. Of particular note are the shred fests that litter "Death, Screaming and Pain" and "Pray To The Godz Of Wrath", but even more so the layered and methodical stream of guitar god majesty that is "Continuation Of Invasion", which seems a likely spot for where the shredding insanity that preceded "Metal Meltdown" on Priest's 1990 opus was inspired. Of a near equal significance is the band's effective use of acoustic passages, particularly on the epic album title song "Product Of Imagination", which has the similar haunting effect achieved on Crimson Glory's debut, and oddly finds itself either intentionally or unintentionally paraphrasing a fragment of Aerosmith's "Dream On" guitar line at one point.
In similar manner to their fellow 80s German speed thrashers Angel Dust, Paradox was able to put out two powerful albums before imploding with the ushering in of the 1990s, only to reform much later with a near equally strong sound. Where the two have come to differ is that Paradox kept a healthy degree of their original sound as typified in this album and its follow up Heresy upon reforming, and have largely maintained a consistent presence on the scene that has since seen a revival of power metal, then later thrash, and lately a small number of speed metal acts. This is an album fondly remembered by the older school thrash fanatic, but it is something with enough bite and punch to impress the younger school that has seen all of the results of older thrash bands modernizing and becoming progressively louder and punchier. It straddles the line between the universal obsession with the occult of the 1980s and a newer world of real world political cynicism that is more relevant today but was definitely present in 1987, but more importantly, it bridges the divide between the consonant and the extreme, resulting in something truly unforgettable.
The debut full-length from German power/thrash metalers Paradox, “Product of Imagination,” is a prime slice of old-school thrash mixed with adequate amounts of speed and power metal to make for the brilliant evolution to come from the band.
The first half of the album is pretty much straight-forward in terms of what you’re going to get, and it starts right off the bat hitting you in the face with the style and tone of their playing. Led by vicious riffing that recalls elements of early speed and thrash metal with the lack of technical variation aligning more in the speed-metal arena yet certainly not so far removed from the thrash scene either, the writing takes on a grand, epic sense of scale that recalls the burgeoning power metal scene in the US at the time rather than attempt to emulate their German brethren who would forge the true power metal style at the same time. However, they do manage to make use of a pronounced sense of melody within the riffs that keeps the songs from ranging into the extreme territory and keeps the songs listenable and pleasing to listen to, for a pronounced sense of melody is fairly common within both genres from German bands and they’re no exception. These are elements that would in fact be present for the band throughout their career and finds its start here, allowing the band to remain familiar throughout their discography as there’s never been a big change from the early days to now with their brand of full-throttle thrashing speed metal riffs. This is echoed with the inclusion of wailing, high-pitched vocals and an epic grandeur that’s wholly lacking in thrash and feels more at home with the traditional/power metal crowd and maintains the bands ability to mix all their influences together into a tight, energetic core. Led by the thunderous drumming and speed-drenched atmosphere, the band has very little deviation at all and seems to make a lasting impression more often than not.
While these elements remain in play throughout the album, the second half is where this stands out slightly as the band feels the need to experiment slightly with their sound. One of the most significant aspects is the increased amount of technicality in the riffing present rather than the simplistic speed metal dominant in the first half, which adds an extra dose of lethality to their attack and would get an increase of use in the future as they drop the speed-metal tag and employ a more traditional power/thrash mixture which is first found here. This is not to say that they’ve become unsung riffing masters, but more that they’ve thrown in a complex riff or two amongst their simplistic riffs and it adds an extra dose to their attack. As well, the fact that the group also manages to forgo their sense of melody in favor of some straight-up intense and aggressive riffing that seems to be handled with competency and skill that wouldn’t have been out-of-place had they kept that style in the future, yet the fact that it’s experimented with shows a band content to trying something new every now and then rather than endlessly recycling the same formula over again that similar bands would employ. When the band returns to the melodic sensibilities they manage to sound almost like first-generation power metal, which essentially was melodic speed metal very reminiscent of their own style and manages to showcase the band as having more than just a singular way of going about their attack.
There’s some absolutely enjoyable tracks here, which makes this one all the more entertaining and full of thrash goodness. The instrumental ‘Opening Theme’ creates a haunting atmospheric build-up with soaring guitars and ethereal voices as the instruments kick in later on, leading proper first-song ‘Paradox’ to open the first salvo with its pounding drums, powerful power/thrash riffing and a melodic mid-tempo break in the middle before a return to the thrash at the end. The powerful ‘Death, Screaming and Pain’ favors more of a mid-tempo riffing attack and a slight easing off the throttle as the melody comes more in focus, especially on the memorable choruses with an insane solo section. The title track is perhaps the album’s highlight with an epic acoustic intro that gives way to pulsing mid-tempo power/thrash with raging melodic speed-metal choruses and another utterly fun blasting section from the drums to keep the energy afloat during the longer track, displaying a profound ear for dynamics and explosiveness far beyond their years. ‘Continuation of Invasion,’ a shredding guitar-led instrumental ends the first half nicely, then kicks back into high-gear with the explosive ‘Mystery’ which introduces a more pronounced technical riffing pattern than previous tracks within a mid-tempo paced mixture of power/speed song with lots of intense riffing for another album highlight. The up-tempo ‘Kill That Beast’ decides to drop the power for straight-ahead thrashing with intense riffing and drumming, yet still filled with high-pitched wailing and a charging attitude to offer a solid track that continues to see them expanding beyond their simply-defined parameters. The laid-back ‘Pray to the Godz of Wrath’ sees the group become a slightly different beast as it drops the intensity and wanders along at a galloping pace instead that’s remotely akin to traditional power metal and only the killer drumming along the track keeps it in the thrash realm as the melodic vocals and guitar riffs certainly don’t offer that feeling. It ends on a high with ‘Beyond Space,’ an intensity-laced thrasher with blasting drumming and attempts at mixing the power/thrash riffing with atmospheric backing vocals that are quite haunting and return the band back to its roots of US power/heavy metal within a thrash environment with a stand-out performance. The short instrumental ‘Wotan II’ is a bit of a cheat as its charging instrumental that could’ve been made into proper full-length song with its strong central riff, but still ends this strongly.
As far as debuts go, this is certainly an accomplished effort as the band has clear and definite signs of their style and intent early on and never really let up the intensity of thrash with the melodic feelings of power metal to craft a strong, highly enjoyable release. The fact that they know, at this early stage in the game, that being a one-trick pony won’t last long and brings in a strong selection of experimental moments to potentially warp their sound in the future and still keep everything within a familiar framework makes this such a blast that this alone warrants a high ranking on the album. While an argument could be made there’s only seven proper songs on here without the instrumentals, it’s not nearly enough to really hold this down as much as it could’ve due to the strong, quality amount of material surrounding them. This is highly recommended to all thrash and speed metal fans, as well as those looking for less brutality in their thrash but still enjoy the format anyway.
Here we have the thrash/speed metal band Paradox. Many of you would think that this is just another lazy thrash band with an usual album cover from the '80s. Wrong. Paradox is an awesome melodic speed metal band that touches thrash. The whole album includes riffs, riffs, riffs, solos, and more riffs. I could never come up with a riff like that, since there are a lot of very creative riffs and solos.
The vocals are more in a high-pitched sense than the usual thrashy, aggressive style. Otherwise, they end up just great along with the music. The drums are one of many proofs that this is also a thrash band. They are very loud and at some point very fast. The tracks on the album usually go deep, but some are pretty badass. There are also a couple of really fast speed metal classics.
One of the most catchy tracks is "Product of Imagination". It's a powerful song with a great acoustic intro performance. The next song, "Mystery", is a nice track with good riffs and a nice solo. The chorus of the song sounds like the vocalist is actually saying 'Misery...'. "Beyond Space" is a fast track with more good riffs, a nice solo, and a great vocal delivery.
Of course, all the songs on the album are worth checking out. "Product of Imagination" is a long story short, a speed/thrash album with its own style....and a lot of riffs.
We’re talking 1987. The metal world was just taking a breath after 1986 had pretty much ruined all our ears and increased the average heartbeat with the shitload of fast furious albums that came out.
Enter Paradox! A German group with a fondness of speed as well as taking back some pre-1985 speed metal melody. Come to think about it, Paradox had more in common with Flotsam & Jetsam than any in your face thrash act yet they wouldn’t go as far as Toxik. But don’t expect the vocals to even remotely have the same quality as Flotsam & Jetsam (or Toxik, or Agent Steel, etcetera). That’d be wishful thinking. Charly Steinhauer is just adequate, obviously has a funny accent and that’s about it.
‘Death Screaming And Pain’ is one those lengthier speed metal songs which keep this album from becoming a full on thrash classic. A nice song, granted, but too generic compared to the more thrashy songs on the album. Also filler crap like two minutes of instrumental wankery called ‘Continuation Of Invasion’ really tempers the enthusiasm and kills the pace and continuity. And on ‘Pray To The Godz Of Wrath’ the band sounds pretty much like a cheesy Walls Of Jericho-era Helloween clone.
In the end the album has too many weak moments to stay interesting the full length. Often one also gets the feeling the band themselves are not sure either which direction to go as of yet. If one craves good melodic German speed metal from the second half of the nineties there’s always Rage and Helloween for the really good stuff. And I won’t even start how many good German furious thrash acts were alive back then.
However I must say any thrash metal collection could do with songs ‘Paradox’, ‘Kill That Beast’ and ‘Beyond Space’. These three songs are really worth tracking down. Just forget about the rest.
Though the Germans have spoiled us with their two recent efforts, the most satisfying in their career, you can still reach back 20 years into the history of Paradox and find nothing but quality. Product of Imagination was the band's first offering, a melodic cut of thrash and speed metal which some similarities to peers of the day like Rage, Vendetta, Mania, Scanner and Deathrow. The material on this album was less complex than the recent Riot Squad and Electrify, the lyrics were still dabbling in mid-80s fare like Satan and nuclear warfare (okay, maybe nuclear warfare never gets old), and Steinhauer's vocals had far less bite than on later records, but there is still enough character here to appeal to the diehard 80s Teutonic rager.
The first few tracks don't offer much in the way of huge hooks, just a blitz of crisp thrashing energy through the band's namesake "Paradox" and the silly "Death, Screaming, and Pain" which is rather unmemorable aside from its first moment. "Product of Imagination" features the style of acoustic lead-in that the band would further sharpen on the successor Heresy (and continue to use through their discography), and the vocals start to become wilder and infectious. The guitarists get some shredding and tapping out of their system through the brief "Continuation of Invasion", and then "Mystery" arrives, one of the better tracks on the album: melodic and heavy speed metal rhythms, and some nice crunchy breakdowns. "Kill That Beast" is similar to "Death, Screaming, and Pain", not much to remember except for the silly chorus (I'll spoil it for you...it's the song title).
"Pray to the Godz of Wrath" is another of the album's strong marks, with some great vocals, a galloping gait, and nice descending guitar rhythm, though it has nothing on "Beyond Space", which erupts in a blaze of speed and lays the foundation for much of the band's later, better work. The album closes with an 18 second song..."Wotan II", which has a pair of pretty good riffs in it that could have been extended out into a song that would surpass a few of the full-length tracks here.
Product of Imagination was a decent start for Paradox, but it soon got lost in the pack as the thrash metal scene was exploding in 1986-1990 and there were far better albums out there to enjoy. The first was the worst, as Heresy would destroy this album, with an enhanced sense for melody and memorable riffing. There are a few songs here I still wander back to, but not a lot of impact and the album hasn't held up well against the ravages of time (whereas Heresy still sounds great).
Highlights: Mystery, Pray to the Godz of Wrath, Beyond Space
This is probably the second-finest German speed metal album ever, behind only Walls of Jericho. The two really don't sound all that similar - they're both speed metal, and that's about it. This album is thrashier and more brutal, with riffs reminiscent of Nuclear Assault at times. The lead work, however, is total Judas Priest. "Pray to the Godz of Wrath", probably the best song on here, has a set of duelling leads very reminiscent of "The Sentinel", for instance.
There are 8 songs total, and a little intro and a little outro. The re-release features some demo tracks, which I forget exactly right now, but one is "Pray to the Godz of Wrath" with slightly worse production. Other highlights include the thrashy "Mystery" and "Kill the Beast", and the opener "Paradox". If you like Judas Priest, and also other German bands like Rage, Warrant, and old Helloween, you'll definitely like this.