|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Demon Doll||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 47:11|
You have to fish where the fish are. Perhaps this helps account for the preponderance of Christian metal bands that came out of the woodwork throughout the eighties, with the majority following in the footsteps of the commercial success of Stryper. In other words, if your goal is to be a “fisher of men” (as outlined in Matthew 4:19) and the fish are biting metal and hard rock, then it only makes sense to play, well, metal and hard rock.
Of course, whenever fish stories are the topic at hand, conversation inevitably revolves around the “one that got away”. This hits particularly close to home as far as the music industry is concerned, which almost always experiences its share of potential catches that slip from its grasp- and by that I am referring to bands worthy of a label deal but for varying reasons never get signed and release a full length project.
The Christian metal scene proves no exception. Just consider the well known groups from the eighties that released critically acclaims demos but still went unsigned: Soldier, Crossforce, Apostle, Armada, Chosen Stranger, Paragon, Revelation, Taker and a host of others too numerous to mention.
Paradox is another such band. Originating out of San Antonio, Texas, Paradox was highly regarded in the Christian metal underground as a result of its two demo tapes, Ruler (1987) and Power And Glory (1989). The group also placed a song, “Meet The King”, on the Underground Metal compilation (1988) in addition to releasing the full length effort The Wrath (1999).
The various Paradox releases, as one might imagine, have been out of print and nearly impossible to find for quite some time. But this all changed in 2011 when Demon Doll Records released an 11 song Paradox compilation entitled Power And Glory. In addition to the 5 Power And Glory demo tracks, the project also includes 4 songs off Ruler and 2 more from The Wrath.
Paradox can best be described as middle of the road guitar orientated heavy metal. Yes, the group is melodic but also brings more muscle than many of the hair and glam metal bands of the time. As a result, I can see Paradox appealing to those into both metal on the heavier (Barren Cross, Saint & Armageddon) and lighter (Stryper, Shout & Guardian) side of things. It makes for a good combination in that the group presents with enough variety to prevent its material from turning redundant with repeated listen.
What I appreciate about the project is how it allows for a retrospective look at the entire spectrum of Paradox’s career. It starts with the Ruler material, which might be a bit rough around the edges in places (such as on “Can’t You See”) but otherwise showcases the group’s potential (check out “Singing All Night” and “Last Race”).
It is on Power And Glory that Paradox comes into its own. The title track and “Meet The King” are non-stop adrenaline rushes while “I Wanna Love You” introduces some commercial elements. “Sweet Reunion” is a ballad written in tribute to original guitarist John Vidaurri, who was tragically killed in an auto accident. If I happened to be a record company executive, I would seriously consider signing Paradox as a result of these songs.
Finally, the two tracks from The Wrath, “Called And Chosen” and “Give A Listen”, are by far the bands best in terms of maturity and inspiration. I wish a few more from the project had been included.
One cannot question the talent here. Front man Manuel Castillo brings a high end vocal style laced with occasional touches of grit. Yes, he might overdue it a bit in the falsetto department but (usually) not to the point of distraction. Needless to say, I have a soft spot in my heart for high end vocalist and so appreciate his exuberant approach. It would be interesting to see the growth and maturity Castillo might make (in the same manner as Dale Thompson of Bride) if Paradox had gotten signed and released several full length projects.
Efrain Galicia is a mad man behind the drum kit while brother Phil Galicia provides steady support on bass. Fernando Hernandez, at the same time, ranks with the more overlooked guitarists from his era. He brings an edgy and aggressive style that hints of Chris Impellitteri or Rick Hunter (Soldier, Walk The Sky), although a slightly out of control and unrestrained Oz Fox (Stryper) might be the better way to describe things. Check out the open air guitar solo “God’s Amazing Grace” to understand his abilities.
As is often the case with demos from the eighties, some thinness and muddiness is to be expected in terms of production. On one hand, the sound here is not bad when considering the era but it is obviously dated by today’s standards. And this is where the problem lies in that - as far as I can tell - the material here was not re-mastered but rather sounds as if original cassette copies had been transferred directly onto a CD-R.
At this point the following question begs answer: Why did Paradox choose Demon Doll Records when Roxx Productions or Retroactive Records would have done the better job handling the re-issue? Nothing against Demon Doll, whom I credit for making the re-issue available in the first place, but either way the project would have been professionally re-mastered (I would love to hear the improvements if J Powell at Steinhaus had been given the opportunity to work on the Paradox material). I can see more songs being included as well. Why limit yourself to just 11 tracks when there is also ample room to include ALL the Ruler material?
Details about The Wrath are sketchy, but here are the facts as I understand them: 1) It was never commercially released 2) It is made up of the 5 Power And Glory tracks and 7 new songs 3) It was recorded with a different line up (drummer Anthony DeLaGarza and bassist Jave Patterson replace brothers Galicia while a second guitarist was added in Roy Salas). With this in mind, perhaps a bonus disc could have been added encompassing the unique The Wrath songs in addition to other hard to find Paradox tracks such as “We Are The Temple”, which appeared on The Brave New Music compilation (1991).
Packaging also could have been improved upon in that artwork is on the basic side of things while the single fold out insert with several grainy black and white bands photos leaves somewhat to be desired. Why not instead included a detailed band biography, more extensive liner notes and lyrics?
Speaking of lyrics, they stay true to the spirit of the time with their bold and upfront approach. The title track reinforces how “Jesus Christ is clothed in power and glory” while “I Wanna Love You” speaks of a truer or purer form of love: “I want a love that is pure for you/I want a love that will see us through/I don’t want to make love to you/I just want to love you.” “Give A Listen” makes an upfront statement as well: “Oh, won’t you give a listen/To what we are saying/And believe with all of your heart.”
Many eighties Christian metal bands had their share of “Spinal Top moments” lyrically and Paradox proves no exception. Consider “Meet The King” and its infamous lines “Bang your head tonight/Raise the dead in Christ” and “Turn it up all the way/Rock all night/Rock all day”. That being said, we’ll also cut Paradox some slack when considering that the occasional lyrical transgression was also made by well known groups such as Stryper and Barren Cross, alright?
Track By Track
The spirited metal of “Power And Glory” hits hard and fast. The song proves furious in capacity, joining a high octane chorus and several trademark falsettos from Castillo with a distorted stretch of lead guitar. Things even out for the periodic quieter momentum upheld by a pronounced bass line.
A more commercial heading is taken on “I Wanna Love You”. Those commercial elements in question can be found in the notable melody that makes its presence felt - the chorus will be certain to pull you in on first listen - and catchy guitar riffs throughout. I am almost reminded of some of the more accessible material from Stryper (“Loving You”) and Impellitteri (“For Your Love”).
“Meet The King” is another barn burner. Full on front to back energy, the song kicks up quite the storm with its radiant guitar flavorings and unrelenting tempo. Adding to the tempestuous scene is some rapid double bass and another over the top guitar solo.
The ballad “Sweet Reunion” falls a bit short. Not that it is bad musically, it is actually quite good, but production ruins it for me in that keyboards come across flat and backing vocals somewhat awkward. If given proper production this would be an essential album piece.
“God’s Amazing Grace” is, well, an amazing open air guitar solo in which Hernandez takes center stage. Interestingly, the song is carried its brief (2:16) length by distortion and feedback as opposed to the hammer-on or neo-classical elements one might expect from Eddie Van Halen or Rex Carroll.
“Called And Chosen” opens its first minute to a kicked up instrumental. Things taper to a near standstill as the song drifts through its ethereal verses, momentum not picked back up until the rhythm guitar returns to sustain its emotionally charged chorus. Lead work reminds me of Impellitteri.
“Give A Listen” reeks of the up-tempo. The song stands out with its perseverant milieu, upheld by forthright guitar riff action but put over the top by a resonant chorus aligning with the inspired scene at hand. This one has classic Stryper written all over it.
“Singing All Night” is pretty good despite a melody to Kiss’ “Heaven’s On Fire”. Did they intend it to be that way? Irregardless, the song is quite catchy while highlighting some bluesy instrumental moments and periodic double bass outbursts. Best of the Ruler material.
“Long Live The King” delivers the straight on metal sound. No, not the groups best or catchiest but solid nonetheless with shouted backing vocals adorning its chorus and a swarthy Sacred Warrior-like low end.
“Last Race” is a shred fest, as in allowing Hernandez to showcase his abilities. The songs full length he adorns with his blistering riffs and chops while adding several stretches of angst-laden soloing. The only complaint revolves around the overdone echo added to the vocals.
“Can’t You See” is a mess. It almost sounds as if the group hadn’t completely worked it up when entering the studio- so the overall feeling is of a half done rehearsal tape. Some good ideas but some more work needed at the same time. Another complaint is that the song inexplicably fades out in the middle of the scripture narration at the end, giving one the impression that it is ending prematurely.
Paradox displays more than enough talent to leave one scratchy their head as to why they never got signed. Of course, it can be fruitless belaboring over the “one that got away”; rather, the good news is that much of the groups demo material has finally been officially released on CD. Yes, I wish the project had been re-mastered and packaging improved but still get this if you missed out on Paradox back in the day.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Power And Glory” (4:49), “I Wanna Love You” (5:15), “Meet The King” (3:31), “Sweet Reunion” (5:32), “God’s Amazing Grace” (2:16), “Called And Chosen” (5:25), “Give A Listen” (4:19), “Singing All Night” (5:14), “Long Live The King” (3:10), “Last Race” (4:07), “Can’t You See” (3:28)
Manuel Castillo – Lead Vocals
Fernando Hernandez – Guitars
Phil Galicia – Bass
Efrain Galicia - Drums