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Royal Hunt: Paper Blood

Ever since the departure of vocalist D.C. Cooper in the late Nineties, Royal Hunt has never been quite the same - until now, that is. Artension singer John West initially had a tough time filling Cooper's slot, as weak albums like 1999's Fear and 2001's The Mission attest. But then, on 2003's Eyewitness, Royal Hunt unleashed a loosely structured concept album about the media's omnipresence that rocked with a vengeance.

Paper Blood improves upon Eyewitness, but make no mistake: Now, more than ever, Royal Hunt is keyboardist Andre Andersen's band. Sure, synths have always played a huge role in this outfit's dense, classical-meets-metal wall of melodic and majestic sound, but many of these 10 songs (12 on the Magna Carta-released U.S. version) feature extended keyboard intros, and Andersen's pervasive style is all over nearly 20 minutes worth of instrumentals ("Memory Lane," "SK 983" and "Twice Around the World"). Highlights include the songs that best echo what I like to refer to as Royal Hunt's classic era (1995's Moving Target and 1997's Paradox): "Not My Kind" and "Never Give Up," with their sweeping, addictive choruses; "Kiss of Faith" and the title track, which showcase the extremes of West's suddenly dynamic voice; and "Season's Change," a moving ballad.

Andersen does leave room for new guitarist Marcus Jidell to make his mark on these songs, and original drummer Kenneth Olsen returns after an absence caused by hearing problems. Also worth noting are the departures of longtime bassist Steen Mogensen and guitarist Jacob Kjaer, which make Paper Blood's energy and depth even more remarkable. This is easily Royal Hunt's strongest and most exciting album since Paradox.

Track Listing:
1) Break Your Chains
2) Not My Kind
3) Memory Lane
4) Never Give Up
5) Seven Days
6) SK 983
7) Kiss of Faith
8) Paper Blood
9) Season's Change
10) Twice Around the World
11) Edge of the World (U.S. bonus track)
12) Game of Fear (U.S. bonus track)

Added: August 5th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Royal Hunt Web Site
Hits: 4774
Language: english

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Royal Hunt: Paper Blood
Posted by Steve Ambrosius, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-08-05 08:29:14
My Score:

Royal Hunt has released a textbook example of symphonic-metal with their latest release Paper Blood. From the layers and layers of keyboards by band leader Andre Andersen, to the pure metal vocals of John West, this is what you expect when purchasing a symphonic-metal CD. Tracks "Break Your Chains", "Seven Days" and "Paper Blood" are very reflective of Andersen's writing styles; plenty of room for swirling keyboard soloing around almost chorus like vocals. Marcus Jidell is left room for a guitar solo here and there, but he mainly acts as background for the keyboards. Instrumental "SK 983" and "Kiss Of Faith" are by far the two highlights on this CD for me.

And so would end a normal review. I might have normally expanded on some other songs or pulled out the comparisons to Dark Moor, Jordon Ruddess, etc., or to dig a little deeper into the making of this CD, but since Michael Popke already did such a wonderful job above, it allows me to release a little frustration.

In 1998 I purchased my first Royal Hunt CD. It was 1997's Paradox and amazed me on the first listen and still amazes me to this day. The ability of then vocalist DC Cooper to transfer the emotions of the lyrics to the listener is uncanny. But add to that keyboard lines that didn't overwhelm the music but lifted you and spun you all around. I have spent years and literally hundreds of dollars trying to find music that has moved me to the levels that Paradox does. Dream Theater's Metropolis II (Scenes From a Memory) is the only CD that has come close to merging progressive rock with metal attitude. And so I followed the creation of Paper Blood with anticipation, hoping that lightning could strike twice.

But once again lighting missed the mark. Paper Blood is more focused than The Mission and has better songs than Eyewitness, but once again fails to incorporate the progressive elements that made Paradox such a classic. Straight 16h note bass lines and zero room for breathing space beyond Andersen's layers and layers of keyboards leave the listener with just another paint-by-numbers symph-metal CD. West is a great singer, but he doesn't have the emotional delivery that Copper has. I can recommend this CD to any metal fan. In fact, if you aren't a symphonic metal fan and you want to sum up every keyboard dominated release over the past 12 months, you could do so with this CD. I just was hoping for something uniquely special.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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