PARAGON- Welcome To Hell
Those of you who know me know that just a few months ago, I was introduced to Paragon- a German power metal band that has been getting fists pumping, heads banging and satisfying the appetites of metalheads worldwide for a quarter of a century now. That’s right- 25 years. And who says heavy metal bands have no staying power? *lol* I just feel kinda bad that I came to the party just recently. But damn, am I glad I did. Sadly, they’re still not quite as well known over on this side of the pond. However, I have a feeling that Hell Beyond Hell, their newest release,is going to be the one to change all that.
Forget being eased into things- the second you press play and “Rising Forces” kicks into gear, you’re quickly realizing this is going to be a high-speed, high-octane ride. This, fellow metalheads, is German power metal at its finest. The jackhammer rhythm section of bassist Jan Bunning and drummer Soren Teckenberg will have your head banging from sheer reflex within seconds, while Andreas “Buschi” Babuschkin’s distinguishable vocals evoke comparisons to Iron Savior’s Piet Sielck in some places,and you know what? That’s not a bad thing at all- especially since Sielck has had more than just a passing influence on Paragon over the years.
What’s that? You think you’re going to get a chance to recover and catch your breath? THIS… IS… PARAGON!!! “Hypnotized” keeps the powerful, frenetic pace running and the engine chugging along at maximum output. When you get to the next track, which happens to be the high-energy title track that was the first one revealed to the public (and I’m guessing many, if not all Paragon fans have heard this one by now- if not, look down for the video link) you’re realizing that this is a masterpiece in the making.
What’s this- a brief respite at the beginning of “Heart Of The Black”? Could this be *gasp* a ballad? Wait for it.. wait for it… and banish the thought. Might not be a white-knuckle speed demon, but this is just as powerful and thunderous as the others. This near 8-minute epic is an ambitious undertaking for the band, but the payoff is absolutely amazing. This has quickly become one of my favorites on the disc- and we’re only halfway through.
The second half kicks off just as powerfully as the first with the energetic, anthemic “Stand Your Ground”- a track that I can see turning into a real crowd favorite if it gets into the band’s live set. Moshpits aplenty will spawn from this bad boy. The chugging pace just keeps on rolling as we board the ominously-titled “Meat Train”. When I hear this one, it reminds me of a movie I watched many moons ago- based off of Clive Barker’s “Midnight Meat Train”. An inspiration, perhaps? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂
“Buried In Blood” ratchets up the pace for the home stretch of the album, staying true to the formula of all power, all killer, and no filler. And then we come to a track that is destined to become a Paragon classic- the near 9-minute “Devil’s Waitingroom”. This is one of those songs that can define, or in this case,cement a band’s legacy. Starting off slow, yet still just as powerful and melodic as we’ve come to expect from Paragon. While it doesn’t have the speed, it is still unmistakably a Paragon epic. All the band members really shine on this track. The twin axe attack from Martin Christian and Jan Bertram are a perfect combination that really shine through and take this to a whole new level. It has everything a metal fan could possibly ask for. Honestly, you don’t even realize almost nine minutes has passed. And by the time you get to the end of “Thunder In The Dark”, you realize that you’re hooked and that little voice in the back of your brain is telling you to hit the repeat button and crank this album up one more time.
Bottom line, folks. This album is, to this point (and I do admit I haven’t heard them all yet, but I am getting there) one of Paragon’s finest moments- and that’s an awfully tall order. This is easily a frontrunner for Best of 2016. Paragon fans are going to love this album. And those who aren’t fans yet… well, if you love your metal loud, proud, powerful and old-school, this album is going to be a must-add to your collection. Play this at maximum volume.
Hell Beyond Hell gets the perfect 10/10.