|Royal Hunt Paper Blood||Frontiers Records|
Royal Hunt have a significant history behind them and have managed to stay on top of their game with some very consistent records especially in recent years, thanks largely to the powerhouse vocals of John West and the musical collaboration between West and band dictator Andre Andersen.|
Their best record to date would remain to be The Mission, after Eye Witness impressed, but didn't quite match the quality of that epic release.
Paper Blood comes at a time when the band needed to re-stamp their authority on the European melodic metal scene, given that there is ever increasing competition in this field.
It comes also after another line-up change band stalwart Steen Mogensen moved on to Cornerstone full-time and guitarist Jacob Kjaer disappeared. In place of Jacob is Marcus Jidell, the man behind the epic metal concept record The Ring.
For whatever reason, no bass player is listed on the album credits. Agreed, Steen would be a hard man to replace, but the album doesn't lack any bottom end. Who provides that?
To the music at hand For the most part, Paper Blood is a cracking hard rock record which gets better each and every listen. Production is first rate, the vocals of John West are simply stunning and more melodic than ever, and the song line-up exudes more energy than most bands could conjure from their entire career on the vocal tracks at least.
The selection of Jidell for guitar is an inspired choice, as his chops both fast and slow are perfect foil for the intricate styling of Andersen's keyboards. But in my opinion, the star of this show is West, whose voice is simply perfect for the material. His lead vocal power is up there with Jorn Lande and Glenn Hughes and the harmony vocals are as lush as any Jim Steinman production.
This leads me to my problem with the album. There is one major flaw as far as I see it. Of 10 new tracks featured on Paper Blood, 3 are instrumental. Those 3 tracks take up some 17 minutes of precious album time.
Note to Andre Andersen if this is what floats your boat make a solo album. You have John West in the band for a reason use him!
I buy a Royal Hunt album for the very reason which this album delivers on for 7 tracks. But the other three are simply high-powered twiddle and at best are self-indulgent on the part of Andersen.
Particularly annoying is the placement of these instrumentals. The album gets off to an absolute flyer with the intense hard rockers Break Your Chains and Not My Kind, only to be halted in its tracks by an instrumental at track 3. The album gets back in track with the fast and furious Never Give Up and the darker and more dramatic flair of Seven Days, only to again be halted by instrumental #2 at track 6.
The album overall (especially on the vocal tracks) has a real dramatic flair. Whether it be the emotional delivery of West's vocals, or the multi-layered harmonies and backing vocals, each song impacts on the listener.
10 tracks of this ilk would have made a more consistent and enjoyable record for everyone.
Fabulous without a doubt and flawless in places, but not quite a masterpiece thanks to some self-indulgent instrumentals.
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