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Paradox - "Riot Squad" (CD)

Paradox - "Riot Squad" CD cover image

"Riot Squad" track listing:

1. Suburban Riot Squad
2. Hollow Peace
3. Riptide
4. Rise In Rank
5. Evolution Reset
6. Nothingness
7. No Place To Survive
8. Dream Hero
9. Planet Terror
10. Psychofficial

Reviewed by on January 15, 2010

"The problem with 'Riot Squad' isn’t the execution, it is the imagination."

German thrashers Paradox have been trying intermittently to get back to their former glory since 2002. Getting their start in the mid 1980’s along with bands like Accept, Kreator, and Sodom, Paradox released a couple strong albums. But they suffered an Anvil-type fate, as a combination of factors other than the music must have contributed to the Paradox’s splintering in the early 1990’s. Reformed by band founder Charly Steinhauer to play a couple festivals, the new lineup ended up recording three albums, including two in the last three years. The most recent “Riot Squad” is pretty decent, but can’t break from the band’s limitations.

The first thing that jumps out of the speakers is a bold set of building riffs to open the album. It all sounds very familiar, and when drummer Roland Jahoda starts his whacking it all becomes clear they are Metallica worshippers. “Riot Squad” sounds like it is sandwiched between “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets.” The doubled rhythm riffs, simple drum syncopations swapping with straight counted dynamics, melodic leads – it’s all there. The only difference really is Steinhauer’s vocals, which are quite different from Hetfield’s.

Now I have ripped on bands for being straight copies of metal gods before, but this isn’t necessarily one of those instances, as most of the songs rock hard. The first couple minutes of “Suburban Riot Squad” have a real good go at it, moving in and out of riff modes like wolves devouring two different carcasses. “Riptide” has a light touch on the main riff that gives some energy as it moves into the quick guitar leads; the outro is also neck-snappingly bangable. The entire album really is a straight forward thrash romp. Tough power chords and progressions and searing leads and drums that wham away incessantly make for a good mix.

But the problem with “Riot Squad” isn’t the execution, it is the imagination. The band plays it very close to home and we’ve heard all the highlights before. Builds to solos, melodic breaks, layered rhythms and tempo changes – all wrote thrash standards. Just as many other portraits of somewhat dour looking women imitated but did not match “The Mona Lisa,” Paradox has tried to live up to their former contemporaries and fell short. And admittedly the thrash classics of yore are certainly a high bar to match, Paradox doesn’t come close, and that is the bar they chose for themselves (the press kit even welcomes comparisons to Metallica). They don’t have the songwriting chops to craft really memorable riffs or melodies, or the guts to take epic journeys through mazes of riffs that leave a listener exhausted, or the imagination to try and incorporate other, more recent, metal trends or even different musical ideas of any sort.

Despite a strange and strong urge to like the record, it just isn’t that good. After considering all the options, it is clear why Paradox fell off the map in the early 1990’s - there isn’t any reason to listen to competent but ultimately forgettable thrash when you could just listen to what it is based on: the original classics.

Highs: The guitar leads and solo bridges create most of the highlights on the album.

Lows: The band gets bogged down in playing riffs – “Nothingness” is a particular offender.

Bottom line: Competent thrash isn’t special or memorable.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)