Danish symphonic metal band Royal Hunt have been combining classic and progressive rock with classical music since 1989. Their 13th album Devil's Dozen continues to merge these elements with intricate syncopation, glorious cinematic orchestrations and theatrics. Chief songwriter, keyboardist and mastermind behind Royal Hunt, André Andersen has ensured that album 13 is anything but unlucky.
Album opener So Right So Wrongsets out a vast cine-scape of sound that just washes over you when you hear it on a decent audio set up. The stadium rock chorus and operatic vocals of DC Cooper are still very much at the heart of the music, it's great to see him as the bands permanent vocalist since reuniting with the band in 2011. Just like that fallow time when Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden, things were never the same without DC. His vocals are in fine fettle too. Just check out how he moves with ease from chest to head voice on the demanding Heart On A Platter, to know that this is a man on form.
There are some fantastic guitar solos from Jonas Larsen and some equally fine drum work from Andreas Habo Johansson, Tear In the Rainbeing a good example. There are some surprises here musically, with the flute intro on Riches To Rags and the subtle jazz keyboards on Heart On A Platter adding some colour to the tracks. Give Way Too Late, one of the albums more notable tracks a listen for another example of outstanding musicianship and a band working in perfect synch with each other. How Do You Knowis the shortest track, and is a shift away from the embellished orchestration and a move towards traditional rock, whilst still maintaining all the fundamental elements of the Royal Hunt sound.
Musically and stylistically the classical arrangements are at times a little overbearing and repetitive. It's not that they distract from other musical elements, they don't. They fuse together to create a well balanced sound, but they are so full on at times you feel you are experiencing the sonic equivalent of the ice bucket challenge. This of course could be viewed as a compliment. If you can break through the wall of sound there are so many elements to focus on that you need more than one listen to unpick the multitude of layers which Andersen has set down. Much of the album is reminiscent of other complex progressive bands such as Dream Theatre, it's just that Royal Hunt have more orchestration and background vocals over the rock foundations, but the musicianship is no less.
Andersen says of his new magnum opus: “We're very pleased to present our new album. While staying on course with all traditional Royal Hunt musical values, this one contains quite a bit of variety...Counting in Royal Hunt's usual attention to details – playing as well as production wise – I'm sure that any fan of symphonic/melodic yet hard rocking music will be pleased with our latest offering.” No kidding, The Devil's Dozen packs one helluva punch!