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Royal Hunt - The Mission CD (album) cover

THE MISSION

Royal Hunt

 

Progressive Metal

3.73 | 69 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lukretio
3 stars The Mission is the ambitious 6th full-length album by Danish melodic prog metallers Royal Hunt. Based on the book "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury, The Mission is a conceptual piece of work consisting of 13 interconnected tracks, each revisiting a chapter in Bradbury's book about the colonization of Mars by Americans who flee the troubled, war-ridden Planet Earth. Of these 13 tracks, five are actually short interludes (mostly instrumental), so there are only seven "proper" tracks on the album. Some may feel this falls a bit on the short side of what a full-length should be, but I do not mind as the alternation between shorter and longer tracks actually works well in terms of the storytelling the concept album sets out to do.

Musically, the album follows in the footsteps of previous Royal Hunt's releases, albeit with a few surprises and tweaks to their trademark sound. The songs are still firmly rooted in the classically-inspired blend of melodic progressive metal the band has been playing since their beginnings. The classical music influences are most evident in the song structures and in the way the bass, drums, guitars and keyboards play contrapuntal melodies and rhythms that bring to mind the way instruments are used in a typical classical orchestra. The progressive elements lie more in the contamination of influences (classical music, metal, hard rock) and in the ambition of the concept than in the mere display of technical wizardry (though in each song there is ample space for dazzling guitar and keyboard solos by Andre Andersen and Jacob Kjaer). As in all Royal Hunt's releases, The Mission retains a strong focus on the vocals, which are the "instrument" of choice for carrying the main melody of the songs. On The Mission, John West makes his second appearance with the band after his debut on Fear. John has a splendid voice, deep and soulful but at the same time powerful and with incredible range. On The Mission, his performance is very strong, especially on the most melodic tracks like the ballad "Days of No Trust".

However, The Mission also shows some elements of progression relative to the typical Royal Hunt's sound. Frist, at various places Andre Andersen experiments with a swathe of futuristic sounds on his keyboards that are unusual for his style and refreshing, and sit well with the sci-fi theme of the album. The way the backing vocals are processed (very compressed, almost alien-sounding) also keeps in line with the concept. The drums also sound quite plasticky and processed. This may be again intended, to give a more futuristic feel to the music, or the result of the fact that the band actually used sampled drums on the album, this is not clear to me (drummer Allan Sørensen quit the band just before the recordings of the album, two guest drummers are mentioned in the album credits list, Kim Johanneson and Kenneth Olsen, but I am not convinced they actually played on the record). Either way, the drum sound is not fantastic on this album and, more generally, the album sounds a bit too compressed and thin, especially by today's (2021) standards.

Another difference is that The Mission features more muscular, hard-hitting and fast-tempo songs relative to a Royal Hunt's typical album. In fact, The Mission may be the most "metal" record the band has released up to this point in their career. Tracks like "World Wide War" or "Total Recall" would not sit out of place in a progressive/power metal album, actually. Unfortunately, I feel that, with this shift towards more metallic musical territories, Royal Hunt lose a bit of the "magic" that one can instead find on their more symphonic rock oriented albums like Clown in the Mirror, Moving Target or Paradox. Another problem I have with The Mission is that the tracks tend to be a little bit too homogeneous, there is not much variation across the seven longer tracks of the album ("Days of No Trust" is probably the track that stands out the most because it represents a change of pace and style compared to the other six). On the positive side, this again sits well with the interconnected, concept-based nature of the tracks. But, on the other hand, this uniformity makes The Mission an album that is a tad less adventurous and exciting to listen to.

Overall, for these reasons, The Mission is not my favourite Royal Hunt's record. It is nevertheless a strong album by a band that at the time was at the apex of their creative powers, and remains today one of the finest in the band's catalogue.

[Originally posted on www.metal-archives.com]

lukretio | 3/5 |

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