REVIEW: PARADOX – “Pangea”
Paradox has always been a favorite of mine in the thrash department, having released one of the better displays of the genre in 1989 with ‘Heresy’, an album that rests close to my heart until today. After a near-perfect run in the 1980’s and a sad hiatus caused by health issues of frontman, lead-guitar player and band founder Charly Steinhauer, the German thrashers (not so German anymore, though, as we have a Slovenian and two Greek dudes in the band now) stormed back in 2000 with the highly acclaimed ‘Collision Course’, which was a breath of fresh air to a moribund genre at the time. Relying on a magnificent mix between thrash, speed and a few pinches of power metal, Paradox is one of the most unique acts in the business, in terms of melodic arrangements and overall atmosphere. It’s also worth noting that the band stayed true to its path and never lost track of things even with a massively high member rotation over the years, stacking up to more than 30 musicians in the process. Hell, even the Holzwarth brothers were part of the lineup for a small period of time. This is especially notable if we take in consideration that not a single album by Steinhauer and company is even slightly mediocre; on the contrary, Paradox has one of the most consistent discographies in the thrash metal industry.
‘Pangea’ follows the highly entertaining ‘Tales of the Weird’ as the 7th full length album by Paradox, continuing the pattern of its predecessor with crunchy bay-area style riffing, catchy and melodic bits and badass attitude. Greek youngsters Kostas Milonas (Sunburst) on drums and especially Gus Drax (Sunburst, Suicidal Angels, Black Fate) on guitars injected a much welcomed dose of technicality and energy into the album, making most of the songs nothing short of spectacular. Opener “Apophis” slowly builds into a fast-paced monster with frantic and aggressive vocal lines and a more melodic, though characteristic, chorus; this is a great example of a classic Paradox tune. “Raptor” has a nice intro and is played in mid-tempo with really crunchy riffs and a great virtuous solo by Drax, proving that Steinhauer hit the jackpot recruiting the Greek, who is quickly turning into a sensation in the metal community. In fact, all the solos featured in the album are spot on and each offer a different atmosphere, giving meaning to every note played, which is rare these days in the thrash genre, sadly.
“The Raging Planet” mixes things up a bit with a high pitched vocal line by Steinhauer and a slower, more prolific solo. “Ballot or Bullet” comes next and offers a rather strange approach, despite being constructed as a classic thrash metal tune. Fast drumming and up-tempo passages fill the song, making it aggressive and visceral. “Manhunt” is yet another good example of what makes Paradox so unique: a melodic and almost sad intro paves the way to something bigger and fierce: Double-pedal drumming and heavier riffs, allied to the great production work applied to make the bass really loud elevate the track as one of the best in the album. Standing at 07:32 minutes long, it’s also the lengthiest tune here. “Cheat & Pretend” slows things up a bit and the band adopts heavy and toned-down guitars to deliver more power to the track. In some parts it even reminds me of one of the slower, rhythm-driven Megadeth songs. “Pangea” and “Vale of Tears” are each special in their own way and keep the high quality of the album, and while the former tells the story of the supercontinent that existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras and is a perfect example of this new era for Paradox – similarly constructed to tunes seen in ‘Riot Squad’ and ‘Electrify’ -, the latter offers different styles and transitions between calmer and more aggressive bits, with a great atmosphere. Despite being another lengthy song at 07:43 minutes, was carefully constructed and never makes the listener bored or tired. My favorite of the bunch, “Alien Godz”, takes things to the next level with brutal riffs and even more aggressive lines, and “El Muerte” ends the album on a high note.
Paradox is a synonym for consistency, and with ‘Pangea’ the band soars even higher than before. The addition of a musical beast in Gus Drax, and the very good Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Keller, Thraw) and Kostas Milonas proved to be great choices to complement the crafty and intelligent Charly Steinhauer, and it resulted in a monster of an album. Bloated with riffs, attitude and mastery, this is the cream of the crop in terms of thrash, maybe tied with Vektor’s ‘Terminal Redux’ for top album of 2016 in the genre, but ‘Pangea’ is more raw and pure. Buy this, go to their gigs and watch Paradox unleash their fun, powerful and mind-blowing display of Teutonic thrash metal.