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Promise fulfilled! - 91%

Ribos, February 9th, 2010

If you’ve read my review for Paradox’s Electrify album, you might recall I mentioned that the album overall suffered from a lack of energy, even going as far as to include a ballad. In an interview anticipating Riot Squad’s release, Charly, the band’s vocalist and one of the guitarists, explained how things were pretty hard in his life at the time they wrote the album. Still, they didn’t want to go back on hiatus after such a brief time reunited (don’t forget they did so after the release of Collision Course) with nothing to show for it, so they persevered and came out with that album. Well, things have cleared up a bit, and Charly agreed it was time to spare the ballads and just go for an all-out thrash attack.

And oh, how they delivered!

Don’t let the rather lame album art distract you, this is the sort of release most bands can only wish to come up with, let alone after 20-some years filled with hardships, family deaths, and the like. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is every bit as good as Heresy, their undisputed “classic” album. It’s not really a deep album – there’s no conceptual story underlying the tracks nor any lengthy pieces of progressive wizardry – but it’s chock full of heavy-as-hell THRASH FUCKING METAL. And it is delicious.

That’s not to say it is a simple album, however. This is a band with two guitarists, and they make sure they have a reason to use both. Some of the songs on Electrify featured melodic guitar lines on top of the riff, adding for a nice extra layer of complexity. Riot Squad takes that, and makes it a standard practice in the songwriting. Picture, if you will, an album full of songs like Monument and Second Over Third By Force. I hinted in my Electrify review that if the band did just that, it’d be a great album. And here we are.

I’ve made a number of references to Electrify here, and it’s entirely deliberate. More than any other pair of Paradox albums, these two sound most alike, aside from the extra shots of adrenaline. The production is very similar between the two, but I think the bass guitar was turned up a little too much for this one. It produces a near-constant throb through the main riff that can sometimes overwhelm those guitar melodies and the vocals. The drums also don’t quite hit as hard as they did on Electrify, probably as a side effect of the bass volume. All this is nitpicking, though, as it’s still an incredibly full and powerful sound. The lyrics are also related to similar themes, this time cutting back a little on the sci-fi themes and focusing more on social dystopian ideas. The musicianship is just as solid this time around as it was last time, which is to be expected.

So let’s get to the songwriting, which accounts for the nearly 20% increase in the rating between the two albums. The album art gives a good clue about the direction things have taken. Again in the center is the same “connected guy” that showed up on Electrify, but gone is the colder atmosphere, and gone are the extraneous details. To translate to the songwriting: they traded the slower, colder songs for furious burners and removed the filler. No ballads, no interludes, just forty-eight minutes of metal. Surburban Riot Squad kicks things off with a level of energy not akin to Second Over Third By Force minus the intro, and again kicks it up a notch with Hollow Peace, as Second… did to Monument (and again, ditching the interlude). But then, instead of taking things down a notch, Paradox ratchets up the intensity again into Riptide, one of my favorites. This song must be absolutely nuts live, with a certain headbanging moshitude on par with anything off Exodus’s debut.

Rise In Rank is just the slightest dip in intensity, but then the band pioneers new frontiers of intensity with Evolution Reset. For comparison purposes, this song occupies the same space as Bride to Silence did on Electrify. This is not a band fucking around. To spare you the track-by-track, Paradox continues to get crazier and more intense with No Place to Survive and then again further with the closer, Psychofficial. In summary: the band starts in the same gear as one of their fastest tracks on the previous album, and gets progressively more intense throughout the entire album.

But perhaps you were one of the folks who really liked the melodic sensibilities of Electrify. Don’t fret, the band has not forgotten you! Nothingness is quite reminiscent of the title track of the previous album but with a bit more drive and less meandering. Planet Terror is another great one, vaguely recalling the speed of Hyperspeed Hallucinations with even more melodic focus.

There’s not a whole lot left to say about this album. In a nutshell, it’s a lot like how I wished Electrify had turned out. The band notably takes a more straightforward thrash approach here, but still features all the elements that made me like the previous album. There’s only one track approaching “weakness” here, Dream Hero, but even that piece sits on par with the previous album’s non-highlights. I’ll be spinning this album for years to come.