It wasn’t so long ago I referenced the basic unkillability of Germanic metal bands, regardless of stature and fame. As if to provide a flying buttress to my argument, along comes Paradox, a classic second tier thrash act from the 80s that are amazingly still functioning some 30 years later despite a paucity of success or notoriety. While early albums like cult favorite Heresy were undoubtedly thrash, Paradox was always much more melodic than their crusty Teutonic peers and over time they’ve become more of a heavy power metal act. Pangea sees them continuing that slow evolution and though the speed is still there, the overall sound is much closer to Iron Savior, Rage and Blind Guardian than Destruction or Kreator. They’re also somewhat of a super group of late, with members from Suicidal Angels, Vicious Rumors and Sunburst in the ranks. The talent-level is indeed strong, the musicianship uniformly tight and the feeling is fairly old school but not stale, and that’s always a big plus.
Opener “Apophis” sounds a lot like a beefed up Rage song and sole original member Charly Steinhauer’s vocals call to mind Peavy Wagner. It’s a decently energetic introduction and the band sounds in fine form, especially when it comes to the dual guitar harmonies from Charly and Gus Drax. It isn’t innovative or groundbreaking but it’s enjoyable for what it is. “Raptor” takes things up several notches for a speedy, urgent does of Germanic metal that almost feels like a stripped-down and pissed off Blind Guardian. The rapid-fire riffs and wild solos keep the energy level high and the chorus is quite memorable and addicting.
From there it’s pretty consistent trip through the history of the band and German metal generally and along the way you’ll hear hints of Accept, Grave Digger and Iron Savior. Standouts include the hyper-polished but fun and cheesy “Manhunt” and the borderline hysterical “Alien Godz” where Charly really cuts loose with some high-pitched squeals and screams. Even the more sedate cuts like “Cheat Pretend” and the quasi-ballad “Vale of Tears” come off well and show a certain workmanlike approach to writing that manages to be both catchy and comfortably familiar.
While all 10 tracks are worthwhile and there’s no filler, at 59 minutes this album feels way too long. I struggle to make it through in one sitting without losing focus on the final third, despite the material being consistently strong. The songs themselves are often in need of trimming as well, with several exceeding the 7-minute mark. Another shortcoming is the production which is brickwalled and LOUD! The guitars have a good tone but they’re so high in the mix they create a wall of sound that gets tiring after a handful of songs. Dynamic this is not, and though I’ve heard worse mixes on a power metal album, that DR 3 is not a bluff.
This is a very guitar-intensive platter, with Charly and Gus throwing all sorts of noodling against the wall to see what sticks. The harmonies are usually quite enjoyable and the solo-work is inspiring. The speedy riffing keeps the listener alert and they flash enough technicality without becoming showboat owners. Vocally Charly has gotten a lot better with age and when he isn’t sounding like Peavy, he sounds like Hansi Kursch, which is hardly a bad thing. I especially enjoy when he goes all out as he does on “Alien Godz.” There’s definitely some life left in those leather lungs.
Considering the majority of people who remember Paradox from their 1989 Heresy album would be shocked to know they’re still together, Pangea shows they’re still capable of writing solid material. Since they obviously don’t want to go home to their wives or significant others or get a real job, it’s nice to see they can still craft a killer tune or two. Long live the second tier!