These guys pretty much define the term “underdog.” As part of the original 80s wave of Germanic thrash, Paradox was the “other band” besides Sodom, Destruction and Kreator and never got anywhere near the same level of recognition. They made their biggest splash with their sophomore outing, Heresy which was a solid piece of fairly melodic thrash, much lighter than anything the “Big Three” were unleashing at the time. Their core sound had far more in common with the melody-rich style of American thrash bands like Metallica, Testament and Heathen and they also had similarities to the zippy Germanic power metal acts like Rage. As with some very underground records, Heresy has become sort of cvlt, underground icon over the years and is viewed by many old timers as better than it really was. In fact, I’m probably among a very small minority that thinks their Collision Course follow-up was significantly better. After that release, there was an eleven year lay off and since they reunited, they put out two more albums of decent-to-good melodic thrash. Tales of the Weird is their sixth album over a career spanning nearly 30 years, and does little to disturb the traditional Paradox sound. You get lots of speed, tons of melody and guitar harmonies. While this isn’t the stuff you’d play when you need ripping evil and savage, kill-your-family aggression, its well done, well-played melo-thrash with old school charm. That said, I doubt this will get them any new fans or make much of a dent in the metalverse this year.
Taking a bit of a chance, Paradox opts to open things with the rambling title track which at 9 minutes, is the longest song on the album by far. Luckily, it’s a very enjoyable, hooky number that falls somewhere between early Blind Guardian material (especially the chorus), Rage and New order era Testament. There are plenty of “thrash-like” riffs and nice harmonies to liven things up, and while its closer to Germanic power metal than real thrash, it’s very listenable. “Day of Judgment” takes it up a few notches into the classic thrash zone with fast riffs, angrier vocals (though they sound like a pissed-off Blind Guardian quite often) and it works fairly well.
Tracks like “Brutalized,” “Escalation” and “Slashdead” keep things fast and reasonably heavy, while others like “Fragile Alliance” dial back and add more melody and end up sounding like something akin to Youthanasia era Megadeth. Elsewhere, “Brainwashed” reminds me a lot of mid-period Rage and has a nifty chorus. The problem is, while all of this stuff is respectable and enjoyable to some degree, not a lot it jumps out and grabs me in a meaningful way. It has a style that nods to the olden days, but it doesn’t really stick with me and compel repeat listens (except for the title track and “Brainwashed”).
Charley Steinhaur has always abstained from the traditional thrash roar or rasp and his melodic delivery at times reminds of Rage‘s Peevy and more often, Hansi Kursch. I enjoy his style and he can really add to a song. He’s grown as a singer over his career and he sounds good here. When it comes to the guitar-work, he and Christian Munzer are about average at crafting memorable thrash riffs, but they do succeed at coming up with some tasty harmonies and solos on most songs. However, despite some solid playing and memorable moments, most of this stuff still doesn’t stick as a whole. I hesitate to call it generic, and the better word is probably stale. I didn’t love their style back in the day, so it doesn’t really wow me in 2013 either.
After all these years, Paradox does the same thing and does it pretty well. However, there’s a reason they were always “the other thrash band from Germany” and nothing they are doing here would seem to warrant any different treatment. It might be worth a flyer if you long for the early days of Germanic power thrash, but this is hardly essential listening, Add a point if you love Rage an/or old Blind Guardian. BTW, I do appreciate the cool, nostalgic cover art which references the Heresy album, even if I don’t see it as the classic some do.