ROYAL HUNT - “Dystopia Part 2”
By Dark Starr
I have enjoyed ROYAL HUNT's style of merging heavy metal with symphonic prog since I first heard their “Paradox” album when it came out. While I've not been blown away by every single album since then, I've liked all of them I've heard, and some have risen to that same level. I would say that this new disc, which I feel is progressive rock with metal angles rather than heavy metal, is right up with their best stuff. I have put this one in the top slot of my best of list for the year, so yes, in my opinion it's the best release of the year. It's a pure masterpiece.
"Midway (Resumption)" is the opener of the disc. The sounds of a scratchy record are heard at the beginning of it. A symphonic music arrangement is heard low in the mix while that record noise remains. A needle is dragged across a record to segue into the next number. The band fire out with some killer symphonic metal sound as "Thorn in My Heart" gets going. This thing does such a great job of merging prog and metal styles into something that is powerful, meaty and so cool. The instrumental break features some amazing guitar and keyboard work. It drops back to a neo-symphonic section that feels almost soundtrack like for a round of vocals. It drives back upward from there into the song proper. The sounds of a train station come in at the end of this and segue it into the next number.
There is an electronic symphonic angle to "The Key of Insanity" at first as it rises above the train sounds that bring it in from the previous track. A driving, staccato metal jam emerges from there. It still has plenty of symphonic and proggy angles in the mix, but it's more purely metal than the previous track was. A cool shift occurs later. It gives way to a keyboard and rhythm section driven movement with weird sound clips that seem like they might be Vincent Price in the mix. That section eventually gives way to a reprise of the song proper that holds it to the end. The actual closing of the piece is made up of more effects and atmospherics.
Keyboards start us out on "Live Another Day." The song turns symphonic for a time before settling into more metal zones for the first vocals. It drops to piano in a symphonic styled movement for another vocal section further down the road. When it powers back upward from there it is much more symphonic and proggy. It goes through a number of twists and turns, and is very powerful. The crackling vinyl sound, followed by other sound effects take it out.
Wow! The metallic, symphonic sounds that bring "The Purge" in are purely on fire. The instrumental piece is such a powerhouse metal meets prog tune. Coming in heavy and a bit more mainstream, there is still plenty of symphonic prog in the mix on "One More Shot." I love the main riffing as this song gets underway. It does land more pure metal than some of the rest of the stuff here. It has some killer guitar work built into it, too. Still, there are enough prog things at play to keep it from being pure metal. Part of that comes from some of the keyboard work, but the general arrangement has some prog magic, too. Sound effects that include someone running and sirens are heard at the end of this.
At over 14 minutes of music, "Scream of Anger" is the epic of the set. A full symphonic arrangement starts it. It gradually shifts toward more rocking zones, but that neo-classical element remains in the driver's seat. That works through, and then it drops back to more a more sedate section that has some almost blues guitar soloing paired with symphonic rock styled bursts of sound. This just keeps evolving with such powerhouse neo-classical jamming emerging. Just as you think it can't get any more powerful, it does. Around the five-minute mark it drops back to mellower zones. The first vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. It works its way back upward to more meaty stuff as it continues. It drives out with symphonic hard-rocking power and some great vocal hooks as it continues. It eventually works out to a driving, yet mellower, dropped back movement further down the road. That gives way to some seriously metallic jamming that gets into neo-classical zones. It gets so powerful before it's done. Sound effects take over at the close to segue into the next piece.
Piano and vocals with some icing on the cake keyboards start "Left in the Wind." It builds out from there to a triumphant sounding arrangement that is mainstream, but also proggy. I can make out hints of jazz and some ALAN PARSONS PROJECT here. It eventually works out to more rocking zones. We get some killer guitar soloing later that is at times more emotional and at other points more technical. This has plenty of symphonic vibes amidst the metallic jamming. It drops back to just piano after the halfway mark, and the vocals come over that arrangement. It feels moodier this time around. We get a blast of symphonic metal from there to continue. Eventually this crescendos to end, and we get a ticking clock and a chiming bell. A voice says "time's up" as we move into the next track.
The closer bears the title "Resurrection F451" Powerful neo-classical prog metal brings it in with a dramatic and anthemic mode. The instrumental piece has a real soundtrack vibe, and, although fairly short, makes for a dramatic conclusion to the disc.