Royal Hunt - Paper Blood - 2005 - Fronteirs Records
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 12. Game of Fear
Royal Hunt are a progressive power metal hailing from Denmark who have been flying under the radar for some time. Although they play music of at least equal quality as some of the German greats such as Gamma Ray and Running Wild, it seems as they haven’t received much attention for their fine work, which began in 1993 with the release of “Land of Broken Hearts.” Their latest release, “Paper Blood,” features only two original band members – keyboardist/founder Andre Andersen and drummer Kenneth Olsen (who left the band for some time during the mid-nineties only to return fairly recently). They are joined by American-born singer John West, who has been with the band for a few albums, new guitarist Marcus Jidell, and new bassist Per Schelander. Together this fivesome has put together a truly fantastic prog-power metal album full of creativity, depth, and energy.
Consistent with his role as band leader, Andre Andersen’s keyboards provide most of the powerful leads in all of the songs on “Paper Blood.” His playing style integrates fast-paced effects that tend to drive most of the song melodies, coupled with blazing solos and melodic interludes that give the songs a real variety. Most of Marcus Jidell’s guitar work is concentrated around rhythm parts, which obviously add heaviness and further depth to each track. What makes “Paper Blood” such an outstanding record, however, is the work of singer John West. He sounds very similar to former Ark and Masterplan singer Jorn Lande, but without the stigmata of seeming like a clone. His voice is clear, deep, powerful, and full of emotion. Although he’s no Timo Kotipelto, West does pretty well with the high notes as well, although he’s not the kind of singer who hits them all the time.
Although there isn’t a bad song on the album, there are several that stand out as truly special. The title track, “Break Your Chains,” serves as the perfect introduction to the album. Here more than anywhere else on the album does Andersen’s keyboard work shine, with several different layers of effects that make this song truly complex. As always, West sings this track with an immense amount of passion. “Never Give Up,” on the other hand, is a more hard-rock oriented song, with a very catchy melody and chorus line. However, it’s still quite the stellar track, and strongly brings to mind some of Masterplan’s work, especially off of their first album. Finally, the track the album takes its name from, “Paper Blood,” is also probably its best. It’s one of the few tracks on the album that is primarily guitar-driven, as Jidell opens the song up with an excellent intro and continues driving through the song with other equally pounding riff sequences. He also executes his best guitar solo of the album near the end of this song.
“Paper Blood” is truly one of the finest power/prog/hard rock albums to come out of a country besides Germany in the last few years. Andre Andersen is a musical genius, and when he couples himself with an outstanding singer and three other solid musicians, the results are fantastic. Comparisons to other bands will surely arise, and two that stand out are Masterplan (for the vocals) and Sonata Arctica (for the keyboards). However, Royal Hunt were in fact making music long before these bands and many others in the genre, and seem to be at a point in their career where they have more or less mastered their style.
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