Royal Hunt - Eyewitness
Frontiers Records
Melodic Progressive Metal
11 songs (54'43")
Release year: 2003
Royal Hunt website, Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Alex

In my formative metal years I have been a huge fan of sweet melodic metal. As I grew older, such acts started to have less appeal for me. As much as I enjoy the first two or three listens I rarely find myself coming back for more. I would never sell or trade those CDs, but I use them mostly for long car trips and as a background when I don’t need to be annoyed. I guess the way my life proceeds leaves less room in it for a sweet mindless relaxation.

Yet, there are some albums in the melodic progressive genre that stand out in my collection. No matter how many times I have listened to them, they remain viable and continue to stand out. One of those is Paradox by a Danish band Royal Hunt.

Two years have passed since their quite successful Mission, and now we have Eyewitness. The album is a loose concept story where almost every song draws upon what goes on and is being fed to us in a daily media. To echo song titles, almost every track starts with some sort of samples that resonate well with the lyrics of the song. Hunted has radio transmission about SARS and other recent headlines, Can’t Let Go simulates jets and helicopters flying over with machine gun firing in the background, The Prayer reckons the man walking into a chapel to spend a few quiet moments tet-a-tet with the Almighty, Wicked Lounge has billiard balls clanging and girls laughing wildly. It is easy to try and set the mood with all those gimmicks, but if music ultimately fails, nothing can save the album. Fear not, my friends, Royal Hunt delivers with a bang!

As much as tracks touch upon different aspects of life, the music is diverse and rich. However, the underlining theme is QUALITY. The band easily goes from galloping riffs in Hunted to headbanging of Can’t Let Go to stadium rockery of Edge of the World to progressive feel of Burning the Sun. Everything is done with ease, steadiness and precision. To further push the envelope there are Bach-like clavier of The Prayer and American saloon piano and dirty guitar of Wicked Lounge.

Instrumentalists of Royal Hunt take turns in showing off their skills, yet they don’t overdo it. Nowhere near is it evident as on the instrumental 5th Element. Double bass driven unison between guitar riffs and keyboards yields to, first, guitar wandering off to an excellent solo, and, then, keyboard and bass taking leading roles. Although Kjaer and Mogensen are perfectly viable, Andre Andersen is still a leader as his keyboards are draped around every song’s twist, and totally create the polyphonics of The Prayer and waltz first half of the title track.

John West had huge shoes to fill after Royal Hunt and D.C. Cooper parted ways. Three albums after that split I am very comfortable saying that John West and Royal Hunt fit each other like a glove. Similar to Joe Lynn Turner but without the sad crooning of the latter, West is very powerful in the mid-range, and doesn’t wonder into a higher pitch territory where he can be exposed. If you are lucky like me to have a digipack edition with a bonus ballad track Day of Dawning you will enjoy his almost American gospel style singing backed up with a subtle female choir.

I started this review by saying how I have not been lately into melodic progressive metal. Well, if it is done the way Eyewitness is done I withdraw. This album is dripping with melody and is performed by a mature group of excellent musicians who don’t break or establish new boundaries, but wield their instruments extremely well and have lots of FUN doing it. I can even forgive their own borrowing from themselves as Hunted reminds some of Paradox, and Can’t Let Go clearly has the lines of Mission.

Killing Songs :
Hunted, Can't Let Go, Edge of the World, Burning the Sun, 5th Element, Day of Dawning
Alex quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Royal Hunt that we have reviewed:
Royal Hunt - Devils Dozen reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
Royal Hunt - A Life to Die For reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Royal Hunt - Show Me How to Live reviewed by Alex and quoted 84 / 100
Royal Hunt - X reviewed by Erik and quoted 79 / 100
Royal Hunt - Paradox II - Collision Course reviewed by Chris and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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