Review: Royal Hunt “Dystopia” [NorthPoint Productions]

Review: Royal Hunt “Dystopia” [NorthPoint Productions]

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For more than 30 years of existence, Dutch Royal Hunt released 15 albums – impressive number, especially for Progressive Metal bands, which usually don’t rush with new releases. Seems like the band is not going to reduce their tempo: two years ago Cast In Stone was released and now, in the end of 2020 here comes a new opus from the band, Dystopia.

Based on classic dystopian novel from Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451”, Dystopia is a conceptual album, which tells a very dark history of future society. Royal Hunt are not confined to the concept only but created a solid and very cinematographic canvas, full of the streets’ sounds, sirens wailing and other things that build an atmosphere but at the same time fits the music masterfully. Lush orchestral works also play significant role in creation of the atmosphere. To tell the truth, Dystopia sounds more like Metal Opera and not just conceptual one: with the vocalist D.C. Cooper you can also hear Mats Leven (Candlemass, TSO, Skyblood), Mark Boals (Y.J. Malmsteen, Ring of Fire), Henrik Brockmann (Royal Hunt, Evil Masquerade, N´Tribe), Kenny Lubcke (Narita, Zoser Mez) and Alexandra Andersen (Royal Hunt, JSP) in this album.

The album starts with cinematic instrumental “Inception ℉451”: street sounds, heavy breathing and some intense music transform into lush and sublime orchestral intro, which becomes a first album track, “Burn”. Fast-paced, with heavy riff, pumping bass and D.C. Cooper’s excellent vocal, emphasized with stunning symphony indeed turn this music to a real Metal Opera; this resemblance becomes more certain in melodic chorus.

“The Art Of Dying” with Mats Leven’s vocal sounds heavy and a little bit dismally. It also has a great melody, some Neoclassic elements and alternation of guitar and keyboards solos. Overall, it sounds epic but at the same time it’s not pretentious, rather emotionally exaggerated, like the opera should be. “I Used To Walk Alone”, sung by Alexandra Andersens reduces the tempo but symphony, emotionality and other things, inherent to Metal Opera still present here.

In “The Eye Of Oblivion” and “Hound Of The Damned” Royal Hunt add some electronic samples to the music, which make these songs outstanding, compared to magnificent symphony of the album. With this, “Hound Of The Damned” sounds a lot like Progressive Metal, while “The Eye Of Oblivion” uses many Neoclassic elements.

The last part of Dystopia opens with short and tragic instrumental “The Missing Page”, where violins and harp change with sirens and radio talks. The next “Black Butterflies” starts slowly and heavy, but later the drums and guitars increase the pace (while the orchestral part remains the same) and the song becomes very dynamic. There are a lot of keyboards and powerful bass here in verse and the chorus is probably the catchiest one in the album. “Snake Eyes”, in its turn, reminds some 80s Hard’N’Heavy ballad, where the main theme played with various instruments: acoustic guitar adds sadness but performed by the orchestra it sounds pretentious and saturated; guitar solo here is also worth to mention. And the album ends with another short instrumental “Midway”, sublime and tragic as well, which shows an unhappy ending of this story.

Nevertheless, to be completely honest, it’s quite hard to highlight some instrumental or specific song because Dystopia is very solid work: all songs are masterfully interwoven and flows one into another seamlessly, telling the story without unnecessary brakes. This music immerses the listener easily and dissolves him in its dystopian world. And for me it is the main excellence of this band: to tell the story fascinatingly, even that one that you already know.

Dystopia was released on December, 18 via NorthPoint Productions.

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