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Fantastic Melodic Metal - 92%

pinpals, June 13th, 2007

Royal Hunt will always be one of the bands that will never receive the recognition they deserve. They play an ultra-melodic brand of metal that is keyboard-driven, somewhat neo-classical, and aside from the modern production, wouldn't sound too out of place in the 1980's. Keyboard virtuoso Andre Andersen is the backbone of the band; his keyboard work is just as audible as the guitar is. He not only adds texture to the songs with synthesizers, he does a fair number of solos throughout the album as well, although never more than one per song, thankfully.

In contrast to many other bands led by a keyboardist, Andersen shares the spotlight with guitarist Jacob Kjaer; a wise decision because Kjaer's florid guitar work and stunning solos keep the album from sounding too monotonous. Check out the interplay between the two in "Tearing Down the World" and "Message to God."

Undoubtedly the best part of "Paradox," however, is the singing of D.C. Cooper. He has an unbelievable range and the choruses and harmonies with himself and with the rest of the band are the highlight of most of the songs on here. He has the rare ability to make the songs instantly accessible, yet keep them just as striking after several months of repeated listens. Cooper's singing on "Paradox" qualifies as one of the greatest vocal performances in the heavy metal genre.

Perhaps helping Cooper's vocal performance is the fact that the lyrics are consistently solid throughout the album. especially in "Message to God." It is refreshing to see the idea of questioning the existence of God handled in such a mature manner in a genre that normally displays no more intelligence than a lawn chair. There seems to be a continuing theme throughout the album, but it's difficult to discern what it actually is. The songs are connected to each other at times, and there are some spoken word clips at the end of a couple of songs, but the actual concept proves to be elusive. The lyrics are so good, however, that it is difficult to care.

There are really only two minor detriments to "Paradox." The first is that the chorus to "River of Pain" could have been a little stronger, perhaps because the pre-chorus is so amazing it is inevitable that the chorus would not measure up. Secondly, the epic "Time Will Tell" shows a slight drop in quality compared to the rest of the album, but it is still a solid song and should not be passed over.

From start to finish, "Paradox" is a remarkable listen. The songs are all unique and never start sounding the same or dragging along, even at the end. D.C. Cooper's vocal performance should be heard by all, it's a shame he left the band so soon after this was released, because he could have done so much more with Royal Hunt than he is currently doing with Silent Force.