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Paranorm – Empyrean

by Santiago Puyol at 25 February 2021, 10:57 AM

Coming from Uppsala, Sweden, Progressive Thrash Metal PARANORM have released their full-length debut album "Empyrean", following the previous releases of 2011’s debut EP "Pandemonium’s Rise" and 2014’s "The Edge of Existence" EP. In this 54-minute, 8-track record, the band infuses elements of Prog, Death and even a Blackened feel at times, into their core Thrash sound.

The record starts right out of the bat with the thrashy rhythms and riffing of "Critical Mass". Markus Hiltunen vocals sound downright evil but are discernible enough to feel human, staying closer to Thrash style of singing. It feels a tad repetitive even if it shakes things up a little bit in the middle, and certainly it is the least interesting track in an album filled with great ideas, which makes for an odd opener.

"The Immortal Generation" follows the thrashy sound of previous track but refines the formula with some neat twists. Fredrik Kjellgren shreds along skillfully, giving the track a Neoclassical edge at times. It has a nice groove to it, improving on the first track feel, and even when it sounds pretty much like straight from the 80s, but with modern production. Hiltunen vocals move closer to Black Metal-tingled shrieking, even if they remain rooted in Thrash.

Beautiful and melancholic acoustic guitar tones open up "Edge Of The Horizon", feeling as a slight respite from all the thrashing. As the whole band enters, things get heavier again. There is bits and pieces of Death Metal riffing playing along more traditional Thrash ideas, adding a nice flavor to the track, which is undeniably proggy in comparison to the more straightforward previous tracks. Being the longest song here, a little over nine minutes and a half, it features a more dynamic structure too. Marcus Blom’s bass takes more presence, driving the track forward and providing a strong backbone to it.

Closing the first half of the record, is another thrashy, DEATH-tingled track, "Intelligence Explosion". It has an explosive middle section, filled with METALLICA-esque soloing, as well as a slight bluesy undertone, reinforced by its 6/8 time signature. "Cannibal", a playful banger that messes around with syncopation, makes for a strong start of the second half of the record.

"Empyrean", the title track, is another multi-section epic. The first minute and a half is pure, unadulterated, Prog Metal riff fest. Even if things retain their Thrash edge, there’s a lot of fooling around with syncopation and groove, making for a less straightforward style. The guitar layering on the chorus is outstanding and the mixing gives a sense of huge space on both the quieter sections and the heavier and faster. The drums carry the track, never overplaying, complementing each section as loud and complex or soft and simple as needed. PARANORM even allows some vulnerability to crawl in on the softer, ballad-ish section from 3:55 to 5:33. Kjellgren really kicks it out of the park with his tasteful soloing. The most interesting track on the record and my personal favourite. Sandwiched between the title track and the lengthy closer, is "Lost Cause", another thrashy banger. Technically impressive but not much to add.

Closer "Desolate Worlds (Distant Dimensions)" certainly is an epic finale. Another lengthy track, almost eight minutes long. The acoustic middle section is especially inspired, the bass sound so warm and soft. The guitars’ timbre bright and clean. And the drums have a more percussive approach that fits the mood. It might not feel as cohesive as the title track or "Edge Of The Horizon", yet it remains exciting. Things end on a lovely coda.

Overall, "Empyrean" is a solid debut full-length, filled with strong songwriting, top-notch musicianship and creative, enthralling ideas. Its production is more than adequate, and it might be lacking some hooks but that is a minor complaint. In fact, the album shines more when it lets loose of Thrash conventions an embraces its proggier, more playful sound, like it does in all the lengthy tracks. There is a road there for PARANORM to keep on exploring.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Critical Mass
2. The Immortal Generation
3. Edge Of The Horizon
4. Intelligence Explosion
5. Cannibal
6. Empyrean
7. Lost Cause
8. Desolate Worlds (Distant Dimensions)
Marcus Blom – Bass
Fredrik Kjellgren – Guitars (lead)
Markus Hiltunen – Vocals, Guitars (rhythm)
Samuel Karlstrand – Drums
Record Label: Redefining Darkness Records


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