Paradox – Pangea (AFM Records)Wednesday, 20th July 2016
Considering the health issues vocalist/guitarist Charly Steinhauer of Paradox has been through lately, we are thankful that this German speed/power thrash act graces the public with a new studio album. To those not in the know, Charly had open heart surgery in December 2012 and spent two years in rehabilitation to get back into playing shape. AFM Records chose to wait things out, as Pangea represents an hour long journey into a supercontinent, exploring war, plague, alien invasion and other scenarios symbolizing the beginning of the end for Earth. Parallels possibly to Charly’s personal health struggles and setbacks? This scribe believes so…
Ripping power/speed riffs and killer mid-tempo transitions where melody seems to be part and parcel of the game plan resonate throughout these ten tracks. Sharp picking and quick hitting guitar refrains push “Apophis” right out of the gate, while bassist Tilen Hudrap and drummer Kostas Milonas provide the proper bottom propulsion for the militant follow-up “Raptor”, a track that all Annihilator followers would be championing. Charly has a sixth sense regarding the right transitions, guitar layers that he chooses to explore and where to be adventurous – as he and fellow axe slinger Gus Drax churn out some musically enticing hooks, harmonies, and flashy lead work. For instance, the darker, clean setups against brilliant tapping and tasteful shredding (yes, those two concepts can co-exist) for “Manhunt” separate Paradox from the new generation pack, bringing us back to Forbidden/Artillery battering ram dynamics.
The quartet also know that diversity is key within their power/thrash platform, as “Cheat Pretend” has more of that controlled, throwback anthem nature between the riff volleys and supplementary background vocals and narrative elements against Charly’s shrill mid-range delivery (akin to Metallica’s “Escape” believe it or not). Normally an hour-long effort tests patience levels – in the case of Pangea the arrangements dictate all the twists and turns, as instrumentally involved as Paradox can be, never forsaking the harmonies and hooks necessary to retain these songs in the brain bank. Favorites change daily – but for now the rhythmically diverse ballad “Vale of Tears” and Forbidden-ish “The Raging Planet” get the blood flow pumping and appease the already steady stream of killer songs in the band’s catalog.
Teutonic speed/thrash that keeps melody and power top of mind – Pangea won’t astound the consumers who love it raw and wild, but those who prefer musically sharp riffing and tight transitions in an aggressive manner will treasure this.