After a short period of hibernation, the promo bins at Angry Metal Industries are suddenly overflowing with power metal! Kamelot, Mob Rules, and now, Paragon, and that’s just the beginning. For those not familiar, Paragon is a long running Germanic power metal unit that has made a career of blending the gruff, nasty charm of Grave Digger and Accept with the slickness of typical Euro-power acts like Helloween and Gamma Ray. The result is a sound similar to Iron Savior, but thrashier, with a more Udo-esque vocalist and Grave Digger‘s penchant for big, beer stein swinging choruses. Force of Destruction is their tenth platter of unrelenting speed and Teutonic rage and it goes to show, these guys are consistent as hell. Pick up any album and you’ll get throttled by aggressive riffage, harsh and “metal-as-fuck” vocals (which veer into parody at times) and more speed than you’ll find at Meth-apalooza. Its also apparent these chaps get better with age and keep perfecting their one-trick pony style. In fact, this may well be their finest hour, with track after track of beer guzzling, fist pumping odes to metal, battle, apocalyptic storms and i-ruhn. As a resident of New York, I’ve certainly had my fill of apocalyptic storms of late, but even I can’t deny the frenzied energy and old school charm. What really sets Paragon apart from the power herd is the absence of the slightest trace of frilly Euro-power ethos. No overblown keys, no symphonic dramatics. No, these chaps would be more at home opening for Slayer than Stratovarius and that’s pretty damn cool. Thinking man’s metal? No. Head banging man’s metal? Absolutely!
As with the nine previous albums, things open with a face ripper and this time its the mighty “Iron Will.” Crunching riffs, frantic double bass and the nasally rasps and screams of Andreas Babuschkin merge to create a singularly Germanic metal experience that’s hard to resist (especially the over-the-top solos that scream excess). From there its fistful after fistful of angry power metal with some truly inspired moments, like the horn raising “Tornado” and the sheer metallic crunch of “Gods of Thunder.” This one channels Manowar at their most roided up and oiled down and the chorus is pure metal joy.
Later on, Paragon pulls strings and gets long time producer and Iron Savior main-man Piet Sielck and power metal royalty, Kai Hanson (ex-Helloween, Gamma Ray) to lend vocals on the huge “Blood and Iron.” The result is bombast on the scale of Blind Guardian, but with a more direct, kickass approach. Other standouts include the simplistic, but hooky stormer “Blades of Hell,” the anthemic plod of “Dynasty,” the irresistibly Iron Savior rumble of “Secrecy” and the faux-power ballad “Demon’s Lair,” which builds into a big, epic chorus with vocals that walk the line between brilliant and cringe-inducing.
This whole album works because it’s just so damn metal it actually hurts and it will make you grin and chuckle at the band’s super sincere delivery. Yes, there’s some cheese and unintentional humor, but it works in much the same way Battle Beast does. Paragon knows every genre stereotype and plays to them shamelessly. Every song has that bombastic charm we love from power metal, but here, it’s so much heavier than normal and fuck all if that doesn’t make it better!
For a power metal outing, you aren’t going to find riffs any heavier than these and Wolfgang Tewes and Jan Betram pummel with one crunching lead after another. Borrowing liberally from Running Wild, Iron Savior, Blind Guardian and even the Bay Area thrash movement, they make sure Force of Destruction lives up its name. Most of the riffs are hooky, the soloing is insane, overblown and hysterical and the speed dial is stuck on twelve. (But, this goes to twelve!). Christian Gripp gamely tries to keep up by pounding and crushing his kit as hard and fast as possible and after all the double bass thundering here, his calves must be the size of watermelons. Last, but far from least, no Paragon platter would be complete without the unique vocals by Babuschkin. He sounds like a mutant merger of Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger) Udo, Marco Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish) and Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and he’s always a blast to listen to as he growls, wails and screams his metal head off. He outdoes himself here and his rabid performance puts the over-the-top material…further over-the-top.
Sound-wise, Piet Sielck hooked his mates up with a great production job. The guitars are big, burly and powerful and the drums have that thunderous rumble metal cries out for. While the overall sound isn’t too far from the typical Iron Savior album, there’s a bit more power to the mix here and it allows the listener to be fully flattened by the crushing material.
I’ve always appreciated what Paragon was doing, but this is their most memorable and enjoyable release to date. If you like power metal, but wish it was heavier, this is your lucky day. If you love the pure metal cheese of Battle Beast, this is the companion album. In short, check this thing out. It’s so damn metally!