German thrash, power vets Paradox still showing passion on ‘Tales of the Weird’

paradox

The 1980s comprised a rich period for German hard rock and heavy metal, perhaps the most prosperous time for that nation’s extreme music scene. From rock to thrash metal to death to pure heavy metal, it seemed great music was pouring from that country’s borders.

Of course you had Accept, who are alive, well, and productive today on Nuclear Blast; Helloween, the power metal warriors who put out some of the sub-genre’s best music during that decade; Warlock, a pure metal machine that cranked out defiant anthems charged by singer Doro Pesch; and heavier bands such as Kreator, Sodom, Steeler, and Destruction that helped set forth the thrash movement and even influenced other bands to get into death metal. And this really is just scratching the surface of the phenomenon. Germany was on fire.

paradox coverAnother band that emerged during that timeframe also is still around, still making relevant records, and still sounding healthy. Paradox, whose new record “Tales of the Weird,” started to make noise in the middle of the 1980s and eventually were signed to highly influential Roadracer Records for their debut album “Product of Imagination.” Their sophomore 1989 album “Heresy” also was released by Roadracer, and then we wouldn’t hear from the band again until the turn of the century, when they signed to their current label home AFM and released their third platter “Collision Course.” The only member of the band that returned 13 years later was singer/guitarist Charly Steinhauer, the only original member remaining these days.

“Tales of the Weird,” the follow-up to 2009’s “Riot Squad,” boasts a revamped lineup from the one that recorded that album. Steinhauer and bassist Olly Keller are the only holdovers, and joining them are new guitarist Christian Münzner (Obscura, Spawn of Possession) and new drummer Daniel Buld, who do a fine job contributing to this record. Funny, the one thing I always found to be a bit of a drawback for Paradox is Steinhauer’s vocals. He’s not a bad singer by any means, so it’s not that. He always sounded like a guy more fit for a classic rock-style band, yet here he was fronting a thrash-flavored power metal band. Even further, his vocals sound kind of dated in 20013. That likely is just my tastes coming out here, and I’m sure plenty of listeners never had that issue before, so take that for what it’s worth.

The record blasts open with its nine-minute title track, a song that shows the band’s dexterity, hunger, and ability to show as much as fire as they did in the early days of the group’s existence. The song is nice and thrashy, the long guitar sections are poetic and flow nicely, and the track contains Steinhauer’s best vocals on the whole disc. “Day of Judgment” is a bit of a letdown, as the intensity is not as great (though they do land a few punches), but aggressive “Brutalized” gets things back on the right track with a display that does its best to make good for the song title. “Fragile Alliance” is a decent song that goes more the traditional rock path, and thematically it’s not difficult to figure out what it’s all about. “Escalation” is one of the faster songs on the record, and the guitar work leans toward classical terrain from time to time. Fans of ‘80s Euro power metal should dig this one.

“Brainwashed” is another long one, running 7:33, and it’s melodic and gritty, almost like Foreigner with a metal makeover. There also are some tastefully proggy sections, especially with the guitar work, and this is one of the strongest compositions on the album. “Slashdead” is a little silly and kind of forced-violent, but in all, it’s a decent track that’s pretty damn bruising. “Zeitgeist” is an acoustic-led instrumental interlude that leads into “Downward Spiral,” which is a pretty strange song. It sounds like they’re decrying people who haven’t learned from history’s atrocities, but lyrically it’s a little clumsy. Musically, it’s just fine. Closer “A Light in the Black” brings back the prog rock in a huge way and stays there, which is a curious cut to use as the finish. But that’s not a bad thing, and the song does rock here and there, but it lasts a little too long at 7:16.

It’s cool to hear Paradox sounding as lively and focused as they are, and they certainly aren’t trying to mail this in and rely on their audience to hold them up. Perhaps part of that is they still feel they have something to prove since their name isn’t one of the first that come from people’s mouths when discussing German metal. Despite a few rough edges, they do a good job proving their have a lot of gas in the tank and likely will fire up the people who have followed them nearly three decades now.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.paradox-bangers.de/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.afm-records.de/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.afm-records.de/

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