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A LIFE TO DIE FOR

Royal Hunt

Progressive Metal


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J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars DC Cooper's return to Royal Hunt for the release of 2011's Show Me How to Live reignited interest in this Danish progressive metal band for many listeners, and with 2013's A Life to Die For, that interest is likely to remain ignited. Royal Hunt's twelfth album doesn't deviate much from their established blend of neo-classical power metal, melodic hard rock, and progressive metal, but the songwriting here is strong enough to make for a solid listen from start to finish.

Although the title track and "Hell Comes Down From Heaven" easily stand out as highlights (I've always found that Royal Hunt's best compositions tend to be their longest), the rest of A Life to Die For is well-written and well-played. Keyboardist André Andersen's detailed symphonic arrangements are quite impressive, and DC Cooper's vocal performance demonstrates why he is such a fan favorite when it comes to melodic progressive metal.

Royal Hunt's bombastic and symphonic approach to progressive metal doesn't usually connect with me on the same level that bands like Fates Warning and Dream Theater do, but there's no doubt that these Danes are really good at playing the music that they play. Fans of Royal Hunt will definitely want to check out A Life to Die For, and this isn't a bad place for newcomers to start their journey either.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#1104248)
Posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Danish band ROYAL HUNT have been a going concern for more than a quarter of a century, and as such merits a description as a veteran band at this point. They have twelve studio albums to their name, with a thirteenth just about to hit the market. "A Life to Die For" is their twelfth studio album, and was released through Italian label Frontier Music in 2013.

Royal Hunt is a band that have always been described as residing somewhere within the metal spectrum, with power metal, progressive metal and symphonic metal the most common descriptions given. The albums I've come across earlier have, arguably, been of a more progressive metal vein, but in the case of this 2013 production I'd say that the greater majority of the compositions have the strongest ties to the symphonic metal genre, with power metal as the main undercurrent.

As one would expect from a veteran act, this is a production that is well made and well produced, the technical aspects of this album have a high standard with impeccable quality. While perhaps not all that important, these aspects of a production does elevate the material quite a bit, the difference between a poor and a pleasant or a pleasant and a good end listener experience can often be tracked down to this, even if mix and production will always be coating and gloss that adds a final sheen. In this case these are important aspects of the album though, and not only due to the quality of the compositions as such, but due to the richly layered arrangements employed throughout that demands a detailed attention to mix and balance.

The material here basically revolved around digital orchestration and lead vocals. Royal Hunt have a strong lead vocalist in D. C. Cooper, and they make sure that his qualities are emphasized throughout. The rich orchestration courtesy of keyboardist André Andersen is still the main dominating trait though, his keyboard arrangements a key aspect of all compositions throughout.

The songs actually appears to revolve a bit too much around the vocals and keyboards as I experience it though, as the bass, drums and guitars are toned down quite a bit and with little room for other instrument details to add subtler details or depth to the songs as they unfold. Combined with a smooth production and a certain tendency to singalong chorus sections with more of an AOR orientation the end result is, at least for me, just too smooth for me at times. Pleasant and well made, but lacking that slight edge that elevates the total experience to a higher place. Details and depth are the key words I guess, as well as a lack of marked contrasts.

But when the blend does get a few additional details added in, the end result does become all the more striking. The dramatic impact surges that is a mainstay feature on opening track Hell Comes Down From Heaven a good example of that, as are the richer orchestrated movements and stronger emphasis on quirkier instrument details on concluding and title track A Life to Die For. Both of those creations represent the 2013 edition of Royal Hunt at their best in my opinion, and should be regarded as the signal tracks on this CD as far as I'm concerned.

At the end of the day I find "A Life to Die For" to be a somewhat uneven production, always smooth and elegant, but for my personal taste somewhat lacking in the details and sophistication department for this album to come across as a vital and vibrant production. Those with a taste for progressive rock and metal exclusively may want to approach this one with a bit of caution due to that, but if you have a strong affection for symphonic metal, and a particular taste for well produced, orchestration dominated specimens of that kind in particular, then this CD can be regarded as a fairly safe purchase option for your musical needs.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#1444806)
Posted Saturday, July 25, 2015 | Review Permalink

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