Based in Uppsala, Sweden the origins of Paranorm date back to 2007. Beginning life as a traditional thrash band they soon expanded to include elements of death and progressive metal. After two well received EP’s (2011’s Pandemonium’s Rise and 2014’s The Edge Of Existence) their debut album Empyrean is finally here. Taking technical thrash to new levels of brutality it’s an eight-tracker stomper that’ll find a permanent home in your playlist
With a modus operandi that’s similar to their sound Paranorm waste little time on niceties as a thunderous drum roll heralds the arrival of opener ‘Critical Mass’. Nestling betwixt the hammer and anvil the two guitarists evidence great dexterity that echoes throughout this album. The interplay between Markus Hiltunen and Fredrik Kjellgren is exceptional and they build a labyrinthian maze of crushing riffs that descend in decreasing circles down to the depths of hades. The solos are short and succinct with Kjellgren cramming an amazing array of notes in a short time frame but the main focus is bludgeoning riff after bludgeoning riff which only adds to the overall feeling of intensity.
There’s a neo-classical feel to the opening of ‘The Immortal Generation’ that creates the impression of something vast and immovable which is soon split in half by razor sharp guitars. There’s a nice tension off opposites here between the dark, distorted riffs and the bright, crystalline guitar lines which seems to pull the listener apart like a man stretched on a rack. Paranorm rarely deviate from their thrash/black/prog hybrid but, nevertheless, there’s plenty of variety on offer: the acoustic guitar that introduces ‘Edge Of The Horizon’ for example. At almost 10 minutes it’s truly epic and it’s here that their progressive leanings become apparent. Constantly shapeshifting it reminds me of Piece Of Time era Atheist as it takes on new forms as if some strange reptilian alien.
There’s a definite lyrical sci-fi theme trailing through Empyrean which unifies it as a cohesive concept album and that vibe is mirrored in the music with ‘Intelligence Explosion’ spiralling backwards and sucked into a black hole. Markus Hiltunen’s vocals are suitably gruff and are growled vociferously but they’re still intelligible which is kind of unique in the genre. But what has really raised the bands game is new drummer Samuel Karlstrand (Wretched Fate). His powerhouse style propels Paranorm forth with unstoppable force and it’s only the anchoring of bassist Markus Blom that prevents things flying away at warp speed. Empyrean continues careening towards cataclysmic closer ‘Desolate Worlds (Distant Dimensions)’ and it’s a thrasher that leaves one windswept in its slipstream.
It’s been a long 7 years between Paranorm’s last EP and debut album Empyrean and Producer Lars Hultman has ensured it was well worth the wait. An even handed production has separated all the constituent parts and created a multifaceted beast that’s certain to push Paranorm into metal’s mainstream.
- Reviewed by Peter Dennis.
- Empyrean is released via Redefining Darkness Records on 26 February 2021
- Critical Mass
- The Immortal Generation
- Edge Of The Horizon
- Intelligence Explosion
- Lost Cause
- Desolate Worlds (Distant Dimensions)