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It's been less than two years since Denmark's Royal Hunt released their last studio album X (oddly, their ninth full-length) but amidst much fanfare here comes Show Me How to Live, featuring the return of American vocalist D.C. Cooper, whose work was an essential part of some of RH's best work (Moving Targets and Paradox). Anticipation ran high amongst the melodic prog-metallers' fan base...could the new record possibly equal the Hunt's best work of the 90s?
They needn't have worried. Show Me...is a stunning album, so full of energy and melody and great compositions that it actually requires a second spin just to confirm its instantaneously epic stature. From the cinematic opening of One More Day to the final powerful sweep of Angel's Gone, Show Me...is an exhilarating listen. The production is crisp and full, the backing vocals create harmony and momentum at the same time, and the songs all hit that sweet spot between prog wankery and melodic metal. DC's vocals do not disappoint...he sounds positively re-energized throughout. Jonas Larsen's guitar work is quirky and dramatic...witness his solo on the undeniable and downright delightful Half Past Loneliness. The whole band plays with a sense of purpose and joy you've never heard from them before...maybe it wasn't present in the studio, but it suffuses this album on every tune. Even the long epic moments like the title track have a confidence and spirit that belies the dramatic lyrics ("Show me how to live...there's a thousand ways to die").
If you like great hard rock or prog metal, you'd have to try really hard not to love this album. And you'd still fail. At 42 minutes, it's too short, but like classic albums of our youth, it flies by and you're ready to queue it up again. Royal Hunt have managed to exceed the high standards of their best work and throw a little metallic joy into the lives of even the most cynical music fans.
I must confess that I haven't heard about this band before October of this year. My friend told me that they are really great in this genre and in all of metal as well. However, I don't like progressive metal very much, but I gave them a chance. I listened to their 1995 album, 'Moving Target', and I liked it, so I started to wait for this album to be released. When it was released, I gave them a listen. This time they impressed me more.
To compare this album with 'Moving Target', there are many influences from power metal. They saved the originality of the keyboard parts for about 16 years. You can hear many groove, but melodic riffs here. As a rule of this genre, guitars sound mainly on the first and second string, and riffs are cut and fast. The song 'Another Man Down' starts as a little ballad as you can hear acoustics and female vocals. Solos are on the fifth and sixth string and are very, very fast. The bass sounds along with guitars as Andreas plays the same melody as the main theme and, unfortunately, there are no bass solos.
The drumming style is influenced by '80s metal. You can hear double bass and great drum fills that are mainly made with snare and toms which aren't by sequence. The drums, along with the guitars in second half of the song 'Show Me How To Live', remind me of the legendary Queen song 'The Show Must Go On'. I don't know why they used this theme in their song, but I think that in the Queen version, this part is only at the beginning and you can't hear it in the middle or end of the song. In the Royal Hunt version, everything is built on this melody, and I think they gave a second life to this part. If Freddie Mercury was alive, he would be glad to hear this.
The vocals here aren't groove at all. D.C. Cooper has a little friendly voice, singing in first and sometimes second scale. Keyboards play in the second and third scale, making very melodic sounds and without them, this album wouldn't be as great as it is now.
To conclude: they have released a really good album. If you are fan of this genre, check it out, but if you are not, check it out anyway, you will like it!
Royal Hunt takes an intriguing place as one of those legendary progressive metal bands that I have never heard about until recently. Having been around about as long as Dream Theater, this band has been making their classically-influenced brand of progressive metal since the style was crawling on all fours. Over twenty years into their career now, the art of album-making is nothing new to these Danes, and 'Show Me How To Live' reflects that confidence and experience. With a firm grip on their melodic style, Royal Hunt creates an experience that is almost certain to impress lovers of both progressive and neoclassical metal.
As a newcomer to the music of Royal Hunt, the first band that this Danish act reminded me of were Kamelot. Although Royal Hunt predate Kamelot by years, their sound has developed into one that parallels the trend in neoclassical metal. Operatic 'power metal' vocals, symphonic keyboards, dramatic melodies and spitfire musicianship are all elements of Royal Hunt's music, and despite the fact that the style of music that this band plays is no longer 'my thing' so to speak, 'Show Me How To Live' has stood to me as a memorable album, solid in most respects. With the exception of the bold title track, the songwriting here is based in a hard rock tradition. While these songs are exciting enough to go off on instrumental escapades as per prog metal canon, they are centered around powerful choruses that reflect the band's skill with writing melodies, and depth of arrangement. The symphonic elements that Royal Hunt chooses to season their music with are never too elaborate, but adds a touch of extra class to what they do.
The largest qualm with Royal Hunt's sound is that while their neoclassical take on melodic metal may have been more adventurous back when the band was first starting out, Royal Hunt's established style is beginning to show signs of age. This album may be the band at their most professional-sounding, but by the second or third track of this record, little comes as a surprise. Regardless, 'Show Me How To Live' is a passionately performed and tastefully composed album by these underrated legends, and although Royal Hunt finds themselves amidst a sea of melodic metal soundalikes, they manage to stand out.