Royal Hunt – Show Me How To Live
Labelling is a bitch. After several heated arguments with my long-time pain-in-the-ass I mean colleague, sir Daniel Millard (editor’s note: lol), I concluded that Royal Hunt plays neo-classical progressive symphonic metal with elements of power metal and vanilla-flavored ice cream. “So pretty much Paradox?” I hear you think. Yeah, pretty much Paradox. Royal Hunt has returned to the glory of the nineties and my personal favorite period of theirs, perhaps because I don’t know much about what they did later and few people ever seem to mention it.
The reason for this throwback was the rekindled live partnership between front man André Andersen and ex-vocalist D.C. Cooper, currently also neglecting duties in Silent Force. Previous singer Mark Boals was told to hit the road because he wasn’t the best fit in this neo-classical environment and ironically mister Boals promptly joined Iron Mask who play kind of the same thing. The music industry often makes little to no sense, but now we have two great new albums, the other being Iron Mask’s Black As Death. More on that in a few weeks.
In any case, Cooper’s return is a triumph and it feels like barely any time has passed since the often-cited-as-career-highlight Paradox. The expected grand orchestral movements topped off with lush keyboard work are all in place with the guitars taking a backseat to all of the pomp that’s on display. But listening to Royal Hunt for blistering riffs is like listening to Mayhem for poppy ballads. Song structures are progressive in nature but very accessible, so it never comes across like the band is trying to smack you around the head with its cleverness. And that is an impressive achievement in itself.
Only seven songs are contained on this album and they flow nicely into one another. “One More Day” is exactly how an album of this caliber should kick off: mid-paced and breezy with a vocal hook strong enough to hold more than a few um, coats or dead pigs or something. Catchiness is never off the table with “Another Man Down”, “Half Past Loneliness”, “Angel’s Gone” and the fantastic single “Hard Rain’s Coming” delivering one chorus for the ages after another. The centerpiece is the ten-minute title track which doesn’t outstay its welcome and has a rather lovely instrumental middle section, not to mention another refrain worthy of a sing-along your sleeping housemates won’t approve of.
The instrumentation is nothing but excellent and the kudos go mostly to Cooper’s magnificent set of pipes (which haven’t gotten a workout like this since Silent Force’s Walk The Earth in 2007) and Andersen’s masterful keyboard work. The man can layer so many different melodies and harmonies on top of each other, it’s like he’s building the world’s most delicious wedding cake with a little figure of Cooper dancing on top. That’s how tasty this album is, and I can only hope Cooper hangs around for a couple more albums. All join the royal hunt!, whatever that may be. Rich folks shooting golden arrows at threatened animals? That sounds wrong but kind of fun.
Arno Callens’ Rating: 4.0 out of 5