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Paragon - The Early Years (Part 3) - 84%

hells_unicorn, December 22nd, 2007

This is the first release by Paragon that features Andreas Babuschkin on vocals, who I refer to affectionately as the son of “Peavey” (Peter Wagner of Rage). It puts forward a pretty solid performance on all parts in the early power/speed metal style. Comparisons could potentially be made to Running Wild (pre-Under Jolly Roger), early Helloween, early 90s Judas Priest, and Rage. They’ve also put forth a sort of Manowar-like persona on this album, featuring the famous quote from the Conan the Barbarian movie to kick off one of their songs.

Unlike some other acts that elected to augment the power metal style with large orchestral arrangements or fancy prog-like elements, Paragon puts forth a right out of the bag, ballsy take on the genre. There isn’t a single extra track on here that would require a sixth person for a live performance, nor is there even an employment of an acoustic guitar for the one epic sounding ballad on here “War inside my head”, which actually sounds like it took some influences from mid-80s Queensryche or late 80s Sanctuary.

They put forth a solid speed metal track too, of a bone crushing Painkiller meets late 80s Rage variety. “Warriors of Ice” is probably the best one in the speed department, and also features a slower section with some solid bass work. “Feel the Knife” also has a solid thrash riff at the beginning, although the double bass drum is kind of thin and tends to click slightly. In fact, the drum production through most of the album sounds a little bit mechanical.

The two best tracks on here are actually of the slower persuasion. “Under the Gun” has one of those really heavy Accept-sounding opening riffs, followed by the most aggressive vocal performance on here as Andreas almost shifts to a death metal grunt some of the time. “Ashes” is my personal favorite, mostly because it defies any sort of a label conducive to power metal. The opening clean guitar sounds like an intro to a MegaDeth song, which is followed by a dark as hell bass line that almost could have been written by Geezer Butler. Once things get going we get a classic bass groove from the “Heaven and Hell” well, although everything else around it is nothing like I’ve heard by another act using this line. It’s somewhat similar to Axel Rudi Pell’s “Disciples of Hell”, but the vocal delivery and guitar sound is much heavier.

Many would call this the first real Paragon album, but one shouldn’t forget that this band had been struggling in the studio since 1994 trying to put out material and what they did before shouldn’t be overlooked because of conventional wisdom. This is a pretty solid release, but still a little bit on the primitive side, so newer fans of power metal who may not be acquainted with Paragon’s earlier works should probably look into “Chalice of Steel”, although I had to acquire the first 4 albums as 2 double album re-issues so you may have to get 2 in one purchase.