Second albums can be a bitch. A band — in this case, a five-man hard-rock outfit from Madison, Wisconsin, called Paradox — wants to continue to please fans of the debut material but not without compromising artistic growth. Thus, we have the second album from Paradox, significantly titled Endless Beginnings. While Paradox’s first record, Living in Oblivion, stunned with obvious references to both old-school and new-school Metallica, Endless Beginnings attempts to supersede that sound with something more akin to “progressive Creed,” with dashes of Dream Theater and Queensryche tossed in. This, by the way, is not a bad thing.
Singer Steve Van Adestine’s clear and somber baritone recalls Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, which recalls Creed’s Scott Stapp, which leads to the inevitable comparisons. Mysterious and brooding, Endless Beginnings comes off as less aggressive than Living in Oblivion, but just as heavy and serious. The new record also contains more acoustic passages and textures, lending it more depth than its predecessor. Tribal drumming, downtuned guitars and single-voice choruses abound. Lyrically, Paradox seems to be delving deeper, too. Episodes of mortality (“Endless”), bitterness (“Listening to the Ground”) and remorse (“Rain on the Country”) dot this album’s soundscape — far cries from some of songs on the debut, whose titles like “Pawns of Oppression,” “Legends on the Wind” and “The Emperor’s Decree” incorrectly implied cliché-ridden power metal.
Some of the tracks on Endless Beginnings do, in fact, begin to sound endless (and similar) — much like Creed and Pearl Jam songs. Expect to spin the disc a few times before drawing comparisons between tracks. Once this stuff sinks in, though, it’s there for good. Van Adestine’s voice has been lurking in my head for days now.