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Royal Hunt - 2003 Eye Witness

John West - vocals
Andre Andersen - keyboards, guitars
Jakob Kjaen - guitars
Steen Mogensen - bass
Allan Tschicaja - drums (guesting)

This is my first real incursion into the world of Royal Hunt. Their prior six albums (yes they've been around that long!) have paved the way for some serious musicianship to be had from these mainly Danish dudes (John West excluded of course being American). For album number seven, they tackle the thorny issue of media overload, and considering we've just come off the Iraqi war and all the nonsensical hi-jinks served up by the American media machine, it's an appropriate subject huh? Royal Hunt display a certain intelligence in their music, and their style integrates progressive (Dream Theater), hard rock (Talisman), and metal (Pretty Maids) without any noticeable shift in gears! With the masterful keyboardist Andre Andersen in their ranks, it's no wonder this band have endured longevity over time, and judging by what's on offer with 'Eye Witness', they aren't about to stop now. Also having the powerful John West behind the mike gives the band a colourful vocal presence following in the same glorious steps as the Voice Of Rock - Glenn Hughes.

The Songs
The news broadcast interlude precedes the opener 'Hunted'. The SARS virus an obvious overture in the voiceover. The crashing intro gives way to some Pretty Maids type riffing from Kjaen. An impressive opening, made all the better by the keyboard interweavings from Sir Andersen. 'Can't Let Go' features a progressive base, though it's offset by the everpresent guitar power and dramatic keyboard bursts. Church organ is the predominant instrument for the Brazen Abbot like 'The Prayer' - an introspective piece. 'Burning The Sun' is perhaps the albums finest moment, with lush Geoff Downes type keyboard work introducing this near epic track. Again Jakob Kjaen's guitar flurries are incredible, the solo is one out of the box! A change-up track is the straight-ahead 'Wicked Lounge', sounding like something Pink Floyd could've conjured up in the seventies. Back on track with a dash of symphonic bombast is 'Fifth Element', an instrumental fusing the best bits of symphonic and Pretty Maids styled galloping metal. 'Game Of Fear' is a darker moodier piece, focusing on the element of war, while the title track 'Eye Witness' closes off the album; a song of contrast, with an extended 3 minute piano/acoustic section, followed by 2 minutes of kick-ass metal, ensuring the album ends with a bang. The scratched record sample at the tail-end of this completing what is an overall entertaining set.

In Summary
In summary, Royal Hunt have a distinctive style which has so much crossover appeal. Parachuting into the no mans land of prog, hard rock and metal is no small feat. Achieving it successfully and being able to secure access among the three styles is even more remarkable. Wherever your hard rock/metal preference may lie, I am certain that Royal Hunt will fit somewhere along the way.


Track Listing:
01 Hunted
02 Can't Let Go
03 The Prayer
04 The Edge Of The World
05 Burning The Sun
06 Wicked Lounge
07 Fifth Element
08 Help Us God
09 Game Of Fear
10 Eye Witness

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