Although it’s less than a couple of years sinceRoyal Hunt’s last album, ‘X’, the Danish symphonic prog maestros have released a new album, which is practically churning them out by today’s standards. However, this album has created a lot more excitement than would be usual in such circumstances, as it heralds the return of probably the band’s most popular singer, American D.C. Cooper, who last performed with the band on the 1997 album ‘Paradox’ and has since released several albums with Silent Force. Although Royal Hunt have released some fine albums since Cooper last recorded with the band, particularly when John West took on singing duties, there’s no doubt that his return caused a serious amount of anticipation among RH fans, even if the intention originally was only for him to appear in a series of dates based around the first four albums. These shows, in Japan, where RH have a huge following, were such a success that it was only logical that new material would follow, and here it is, a brand new album.
On first listening, it’s almost as if the last thirteen or so years never happened, and as soon as you press ‘PLAY’ you just know this is classic Royal Hunt. The albums with Mark Boals seemed to lack the gloriously overblown pomp and ambition of the band’s heyday, but with the return of Cooper, it seems that the band have rediscovered what made them so great. The trademarks are all there, from Andre Andersen’s classical flourishes, the guitars, courtesy of another new boy, Jonas Larsen, provide some real crunch and Cooper’s vocals just put the seal on the whole majestically over the top package.
There are only seven songs on the album, although the centrepiece of the album, the title track, is over ten minutes long. Opener One Fine Day begins with some crowd sound effects, followed by a stately piece of orchestra and choir before the band come in to set the tone for the whole album. Lush, epic and enjoyably over the top, it’s a great foretaste of what’s in store. An Empty Shell is another highlight, with Cooper’s highly dramatic vocal, and Half Past Loneliness is easily the most commercial track on the album, with some very welcome guitar solos.Show Me How To Live itself starts slowly, with almost a bluesy feel before transforming itself into a genuine rock epic. There’s an orchestral mid-section, of the kind Nightwish have been doing recently, some great duelling between Andre Andersen and guitarist Jonas Larsen, before the song comes to a suitably overblown climax. Great track.
I do have a couple of reservations about the CD, though. Firstly it’s only 42 minutes long. Whether that constitutes value for money in 2011 is a debate in itself, but I would have hoped that for such a significant album in the band’s career, they could have gone the extra mile and given us more to get our teeth into. Having already mentioned how comparatively soon this is after the last album, I wonder if there was some pressure to get this album out as soon as possible to capitalise on the return of Cooper and if under other circumstances, the band would have worked on it a lot longer. Secondly, I really would have liked more guitar on the album. There are times when the orchestrations, whether real or via Andersen’s keyboards, do dominate a little too much. On my favourite albums by this band, they manage to balance the keys and guitars much better than they do here and it did detract a little for me.
Nonetheless, with DC Cooper back in the fold, this is undoubtedly an album that Royal Hunt fans will lap up. It’s a good album, and a good Royal Hunt album. But compared to the likes of ‘Paradox’, ‘The Mission’ and ‘Moving Target’, I’m not quite sure it’s a great Royal Hunt album. I was going to finish by saying that some UK dates were long overdue, but the welcome announcement that the band are playing at Firefest has resolved that issue and is yet another reason to be in Rock City on the 19th, 20th and 21st October.