Review Summary: This is what an adept progressive symphonic power metal album looks like.
The band Royal Hunt has a deep history in the genre of progressive metal. Now moving past their 15th studio album Dystopia, they have sold over one million album copies worldwide. The consensus is that they hit their artistic peak around the mid-90s with albums like Paradox and Moving Target which achieved critical acclaim. From someone who has never actually listened to either album, the road which Royal Hunt had taken to get to this point is blurry. And it’s not like they have been slacking on putting out material, as 10 full-length albums separate where we are now from their golden age. From what I can understand, most of their following are international (European/Japanese), and from an older generation of progressive metal fans who were in the scene in the 90s. This explains the fact that they were at 6k monthly listeners on Spotify before Dystopia dropped, all while exceeding one million record sales.
With all this in mind, I want to be one to introduce this band to the new generation of prog fans because their material is excellent. To sum it up, this album is packed with strong power metal values: killer guitar solos, energetic and catchy choruses, and a grandiose concept album. This is combined with basically a symphony orchestra which really builds on the epicness of the album when it needs to be epic.
The intro song sets up the atmospheric premise of the album which is a depiction of the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. As we are welcomed into the album by the siren of an ambulance and an orchestral build-up, we know it is time for the mass burning of books to keep the knowledge away from the public. The next song has big symphonic metal energy as the trumpets lead the melody of the chorus. I want to point out that this melody is also a reprise to the song “A Million Ways to Die” from Royal Hunt’s 2018 album Cast in Stone. I’m not sure if the concepts of the albums are connected, but the melodic recurrence was a nice touch to reference the fact that the world is in grave danger.
After an intro as strong as this, the rest of the album remains about just as good. There are a couple of songs that are definitely weaker than others, but there are a few that are real bangers. It is clear that Royal Hunt has a very strong songwriting intuition as the album is filled with encapsulating vocal hooks. For instance, “Black Butterflies” may be the strongest song on the album for how catchy and intense the main chorus hits, backed by the progressively rhythmic drumming and the enveloping symphony.
“Black Butterflies” is also where the longtime vocalist D. C. Cooper gets to show off his abilities most. How the chorus is repeated many times in different ways, from softly spoken lyrics, to baritone, to a big falsetto climax. To be honest, it must be hard to be a vocalist for a band that is going on 15+ albums because often the case is your voice is not as young and pliable as it was when you were young. And a lot of people give older vocalists *** because of how their voice sounds as they age. For instance, I have read in other reviews that D. C. Cooper’s voice has been dropping in quality since that golden age of Royal Hunt. And to be fair, this may be true as I have not listened to a ton of Royal Hunt but from what it sounds like to me, he’s still got it in him. But you can make that judgment for yourself.
All in all, this thing is damn solid. It is not easy to be able to sound unique in a pool of similar power/symphonic metal bands, but Royal Hunt seems to have done so. The instrumentals are all really technical and spot on. They have wanky moments, but not too much so that it turns listeners off. The choruses and melodies are incredibly memorable. And the symphonic element that this album has makes it more epic and high brow. This would be the perfect listen for someone who is into progressive power metal or is a fan of catchy metal with a symphonic flair.