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Proving that even an old band can learn new tricks - 96%

ijy10152, February 23rd, 2021

I first discovered Royal Hunt in 2010 with their tenth album release synonymously titled X. I thought the music was good, but I didn't dig the vocalist which didn't encourage me to check out any more of the band’s discography. Of course, I proceeded to promptly miss their vocalist change in 2011 back to their beloved, well-known vocalist D.C. Cooper. Then when everyone was making a big deal out of A Life to Die For, I decided to give them another try and I immediately loved it. I fell in love with Cooper’s voice right away, but that’s not the only thing to love on this album: the massive use of symphonics and the cool old-style rock feel of this album make it a lot of fun. It’s a bit short at 46 minutes long, but there’s enough material in it to keep us well entertained.

There’s only seven songs, but this time they're sandwiched between a pair of nine-minute pseudo epics -- an always interesting album layout. "When Hell Comes Down from Heaven" is up first and it's the longest song on the album. It begins with some epic orchestrations that build up to a climax where they insert the guitars and the drums, and makes for a really effective introduction without using an obligatory minute-long intro track. This song shows us an example of a mid-paced/slow song done correctly; it keeps us interested with some really catchy memorable lyrics/vocals and varied rhythms aided by the aforementioned orchestrations. Catchy and epic pretty much describes this entire album.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor Show Me How to Live, while I'm not quite prepared to say this is better, A Life to Die For is certainly at least as good while continuing to use the sound they established with the previous album in some great ways.

Cooper’s voice sounds better than ever, and coupled with such excellent vocal melodies, it’s nothing short of incredible. Every song on this is a highlight and just incredibly memorable, but "Running out of Tears" really caught my attention because this is where they really bring in the “classic rock” feel I mentioned earlier, tambourine and all. Also this is the song where it sounds more like prog rock than metal. The title track is another one that really shines. You've got to love it when the title track ends up being, if not the best track, one of the best, because so rarely do title tracks live up to the rest of the album. Thankfully, this title track does live up to the rest of the album. It has the riffs, it has the chorus, it has epic arrangements, and it just kicks ass. "Sign of Yesterday" is another standout that continues the classic rock feel of "Running out of Tears" with a really awesome chorus.

Everything on this album is incredibly catchy and memorable; the melodies are excellent, the orchestrations tasteful and well-done, the vocals are awesome and are as good or better than they've ever been. The only real complaints I could possibly come up with are that the record could be longer and the orchestrations occasionally overpower the guitars on some parts. So if you're not a big fan of symphonic stuff, then you might not enjoy this as much as I did. But for me, really, it didn't present a problem. A Life to Die For is an amazing album and the only question worth asking is “Are you listening to this right now?” If the answer is no, then you say “Well, why the hell not?” and then make them listen to this. Royal Hunt's latest album is one of the biggest surprises of 2013 and it has catapulted into my top five of the year. Seriously, it’s that good.