Paradox - Electrify 4.5/5

Reviewed: 12-5-08


1. Second over third by force
2. Paralyzed
3. Monument
4. Portrait in grey
5. Hyperspeed hallucinations
6. Bridge to silence
7. Infected
8. Disconnected
9. Cyberspace romance
10. Electrify

Now we're cooking with grease. For the benefit of those who may need a history lesson to place 'Electrify' in its proper context, Paradox were arguably the premier melodic thrash band to claw their way out of Germany in the 80s. Led by southpaw guitarist/vocalist/James Hetfield impersonator Charly Steinhauer, Paradox released 2 CDs in the late-80s that perfectly fused the Bay Area ferocity and technicality with the German knack for strong melodies, coming across as something of an amalgamation of early Forbidden, Heathen, early Metallica, 'Walls'-era Helloween, and Not Fragile. The 1987 debut, 'Product of imagination', was pretty impressive in its own right, but the follow-up, 1989's 'Heresy', is one of the greatest thrash/speed albums released by any band ever. Blending aggression, melody, and technicality with magnificent songwriting and a historically-based lyrical concept about 13th century European religious conflict (specifically, the Crusades), 'Heresy' is an unadulterated masterpiece of thrash. Then Paradox vanished for 11 torturous years, before resurfacing in 2000 (featuring Steinhauer and a brand-new supporting cast) with an uneven comeback release called 'Collision course' that had some strong moments, but was ultimately not fully satisfying for longtime fans of the band. Cue another interminable hiatus, this one lasting 8 years while Steinhauer addressed a host of personal and medical difficulties, before reappearing once again with 'Electrify'.

If you were hoping for another 'Heresy', this new Paradox CD ain't it. But it is absolutely worthy of the Paradox name and proves that Steinhauer and his bandmates have a few tricks up their sleeves after all. The opener, "Second over third by force", perfectly summarizes the state of Paradox circa 2008. After an eerie, 1-minute guitar buildup, the furious Heathen-esque Bay Area riffage explodes from the speakers and the melodic speed metal assault pummels the listener into submission. The precise, high-velocity, razor-sharp riffing, the characteristic clear but slightly quirky vocals, the devastating hook in the chorus, the moshy bridge, the face-melting solo. I mean, this song has everything I ever wanted from the thrash metal genre. "Second over third by force" is an instant classic. Then, after a short, melodic, palate-cleansing intermezzo of the kind that Jon Schaffer has favored in recent years, Paradox drops the hammer again with "Monument", another melodic speedy thrash metal monster of a song with guitar riffs to die for, relentless speed, and a remarkable catchy chorus, channeling early Helloween and Not Fragile this time, with Steinhauer even sounding a touch like Kai Hansen on the vocals.

Okay, so the rest of 'Electrify' isn't quite as stupendous as the lethal combination of "Second over third by force" and "Monument". In a few spots, the speed and intensity abate more than I would have liked, the songwriting becomes just a tad forced, and Paradox even try their hands at a semi-ballad, which isn't really their forte. But there are still plenty of highlights. The single/video track "Infected" is a brilliant slice of Bay Area metal with an extra steroid injection of melody. "Hyperspeed hallucinations" lives up to its title. "Disconnected" rips and tears with gleeful abandon. And closer "Electrify" induces such violent fits of headbanging that it ensures that any listeners who have escaped the first 46 minutes of this CD without sustaining severe neck damage will have to schedule a chiropractor appointment for the near future.

Welcome back, Paradox. We've missed you. Thank you for giving old-school thrash fanatics the gift that is 'Electrify'. Whatever trials and tribulations you've endured (individually and collectively) to reach this point have not been in vain. Please don't let another 8 years pass before your next CD. You hold the flag of pure German melodic thrash/speed metal high, and there's no other band quite like you.




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