Royal Hunt – XIII: Devil’s Dozen

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It is hard to be distinctive in the frilly-shirted, leather waist-coated, hair-billowing-majestically-in-the-wind world of Power Metal. Yet, make your mark and you’ll find a dedicated, passionate and devoted audience willing to support you, smile benevolently at any missteps and devour anything approaching a return to form. Over the course of their twenty six year career, Denmark’s top exponent of the art Royal Hunthave witnessed all of the above, and with XIII: Devil’s Dozen (Frontiers) have rewarded once more their loyal subjects.

The return to the fold of DC Cooper in 2012 has ensured that the Royal Hunt continues to ride strong into the latter part of their career like a fine wine, as album thirteen rivals Paradox (Magna Carta) as their crowning moment.

Energized by the powerful pigskin pounding of Narnia’s Andreas Johansson, ‘So Right, So Wrong’ announces the commencement of the album in spectacular fashion, with a dramatic and rousing symphonic introduction that bursts out into rocking, roaring guitars. Cooper’s vocals add to the theatrical, Broadway feel before delivering the first, and biggest, of several big choruses.

While Cooper is an obvious and deserving focal point, once again it is Andre Andersen who is the conductor of majesties from behind the ivories (or whatever the keys of a synth are made of…), his songwriting exuding a joie de vivre that is infectious, with each track larger than life. ‘May You Never (Walk Alone)’ hosts everything that works about Royal Hunt, starting life as a piano ballad before exploding in a thunder of drums, power chords, bass runs and synth stabs, racing down the aortic valves fuelling the body.

A bombastic, ambitious, joyful, layered and uplifting album, Andersen knows how to switch it up; ‘Riches To Rags’ introduces a ridiculously catchy piped motif and a folk jiggery-pokery to proceedings, ‘Until The Day’ is over the top symphonic hard rock semi-balladic majesty while ‘Heart On A Platter’ bounces in with thick bass swagger and jazzy keys embellishments, that builds up to a Kamelot-meets-Whitesnake slip of the tongue.

We’ve all witnessed many an album of this ilk that descends into sterile, flaccid by-numbers staid song-writing. Despite each track touching the six minute mark, XIII never outstays its welcome. With flashes of Dokken and Stratovarius, Royal Hunt show, a quarter of a century into their career, how the marriage of power metal with symphonic and hard rock should be done.

 

8.0/10

STEVE TOVEY

Skeletons In The Closet – Daniel Finch of Devilment

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In the first of a new feature, Daniel Finch, guitarist and songwriter for Devilment shared with Ghost Cult his five closet albums – albums he loves but most people hate – as the band celebrate the release of The Great & Secret Show (Nuclear Blast), which was released on Halloween.

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Pestilence – Spheres (1993, Roadrunner)

Fourth album, and last before a fourteen year hiatus, from the Dutch band who brought us the pure Death Metal classic of Consuming Impulse. Seen as Patrick Mameli straying a bit too far off the beaten track…

Daniel – “People loved them for their death metal sound, but I really liked it when they started using guitar synths and took on the whole Jazz Fusion vibe on this record.”

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Mushroomhead – XIII (2003, Universal)

Surprisingly, this Ohio quasi industrial/nu-metal mish-mash of members of other (failed) bands are still going. XIII featured hit single ‘Sun Doesn’t Rise’ and is their biggest selling release to date.

Daniel – “People never got this band. I think the trouble was people saw them as a Slipknot rip off, but to me they were more freaky than Slipknot – just check out some of the footage from their last tour! I loved the whole mask thing, and this album is just killer from start to end. great heavy riffs and melodies”

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Korn – The Paradigm Shift (2013, Universal)

Although well received at the time, the first Korn album to feature Head since Take A Look In The Mirror seems to have flown under the radar, possibly due to a poor run of Korn albums leading up to it, and then predecessor, the dub (mis) step heavy Path of Totality (which I actually rate…)

Daniel – “People kind of slag off Korn now, and yes in places this is a commercial record. But it’s got some really strong hooks, is it a return to form of the first album ? No its not. But it’s a new Korn, but it’s without maybe the those things that annoyed people before about the band. It’s a solid big record.”

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Psychotic Waltz – Into The Everflow (1992, Dream Circle)

The second of four albums from the Californian progressive metal band, who apparently reformed for a tour (do bands ever completely die these days?!) but have dropped off the radar again….

Daniel – “This is one of the most underrated bands of all time, (though) I can see why. (It’s) heavy riffs, progressive music, odd time changes and flutes, played by guys smoking weed. But now with the whole interest in progressive metal surely this band should have a place!”

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Paradise Lost – Symbol Of Life (2002, GUN/Koch)

After embarking on electronic, gothic and less guitary dalliances, Halifax’s finest returned to their heavier roots in a move that was treated with cynicism and skeptisim. Twelve years on, the band have yet to return to the popularity levels they had prior to their initial move away from metal.

Daniel – “Everybody always talks about the good old days of Icon (Music For Nations) [yup, I know I do… ST], but from that album they moved in different waters, taking on different sounds, maybe more towards 80s pop and goth. But this is a straight, heavy album with great songs, hooks and riffs. It doesn’t sound like Paradise Lost and their natural sound, and it’s an album they regret making, but it’s a shame they didn’t do this sound from day one.”

Devilment are currently touring Europe with Lacuna Coil and Motionless In White (tour dates here)

Read our review of The Great & Secret Showhere

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WORDSby STEVE TOVEY