After Royal Hunt ditched singer extraordinaire D.C. Cooper in favor of John West (Artension, Badlands), the keyboard-heavy metal band from Denmark released two albums — 1999’s dark and brooding Fear and 2001’s Ray Bradbury-inspired concept piece The Mission — that didn’t quite measure up to the magic and majesty Royal Hunt conjured on earlier records. That trend changes, however, with The Watchers.
Not coincidentally, the 10-track album contains four reworked cuts from the band’s first two albums that featured Henrik Brockmann on lead vocals ("One By One," "Clown in the Mirror," "Day In Day Out" and "Legion of the Damned"), as well as live versions of four songs from both the Brockmann and Cooper eras ("Lies," "Flight," "Message to God" and "Epilogue"). The other two tracks are the full-length version and radio edit of "Intervention," easily the band’s most ambitious effort to date. (Parts of "Intervention" first appeared on the Japan-only Intervention EP.) The song’s full-length version clocks in at longer than 14 minutes – the radio version runs only six minutes -- and features numerous sound bites, extended instrumental passages and a stunning vocal performance by West. The singer’s "don't-fuck-with-me" delivery style also adds extra zest to The Watchers' older tracks, all of which are punctuated by Andre Anderson’s pretty yet over-the-top keyboards.
Despite its eclectic mix and piecemeal nature, The Watchers represents the best Royal Hunt album of the West era, although the records on which Cooper sang are ultimately more memorable. Still, without discrediting Brockmann and Cooper (who remains one of metal’s best vocalists in his own band, Silent Force), Royal Hunt – after almost a decade – seems to have finally found the right voice for its distinct sound.