PARAGON – Hell Beyond Hell
Staying true to your ideals and beliefs may never be easy in an ever evolving, quick paced society. Pressure abounds to conform in attaining appeal to the masses- yet others strike their own path and are content to deal with the consequences, positive or negative. Germany’s Paragon have been a steady force in the old power/speed metal guard for decades, as "Hell Beyond Hell" is their 11th studio album and first in four years. Those expecting modernization in production, tones, or attitude need to steer clear – this album appeals to those who love true power riffing, harmonies from the heart, and passionate choruses made for rebel rousing, beer swilling, and audience unification.
"Rising Forces" kicks off the album in energetic form, giving way to a mid-tempo churning anthem in "Hypnotized" where vocalist Andreas Babuschkin lays out all of his grit and Teutonic charm in low to high form. Think of a clearer Chris Boltendahl, Bobby Blitz, or Udo Dirkschneider all meeting together and you have an idea of where Andreas’ delivery is ideal for these potent Paragon tracks. Judas Priest and Accept fans will proudly bang their head and scream and shout to the riff charge present in the title track highlight, bassist Jan Bunning and drummer Sören Teckenburg laying down the proper tempo foundation for the axe team of Martin Christian and Jan Bertram to blitz the aural landscape with their dual rhythm and lead work.
Consciously honing in on the hooks, melodies, and riffs this time around gives the front to back experience more longevity, as the listener will be able to pick up new elements through successive playbacks. Intertwining normal 4-5 minute songs with a couple of epic arrangements like "Heart of the Black" and "Devil’s Waitingroom" gives us a bit more of their understanding of proper build-ups and light/dark contrasts – the latter containing a drum marching strain opening and closing against cleaner, restrained guitar parts while the mid-section is very powerful, a song that would make the legends proud of their mark on metal.
Rounding out the package with killer artwork and the expertise of producer Piet Sielck (Iron Savior), "Hell Beyond Hell" easily ascends to my top 3 Paragon albums of all time – possibly rivalling "Law of the Blade" for long-lasting appeal. Wield the hammer, slam the stone – fists raised as high as they can for the glory of heavy metal lives on forever.