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'A Life To Die For'
(Frontiers Records)
Release Date: 29th November 2013

Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke

Rockulus Maximus

royal hunt

In 2011 I stumbled across a Danish band who liked things to be melodic, progressive and symphonic. Their album at the time was called 'Show Me How To Live' and I rated it very highly.

Heavy on keyboards and melodies, full of drama and yet so addictive I was captured in the glare of its lights. Here I am today now ready to tackle their follow up to that album, 'A Life To Die For' which on the first few listens resembles that previous album.

With this new album being their 12th you'd be forgiven for thinking they were going through their paces, but as keyboardist and producer André Andersen once told me: "Personally - I love playing music, be it on stage or in the studio – and that's my biggest motivation."

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With a howl from a distant wolf, the music creeps into earshot with an evident tension as the unfolding drama swirling in the shape of layers of keyboard is joined by a guitar refrain and then the vocals of D.C. Cooper.

Not a band to hold back from hitting you between the eyes with their epic compositions, this opening song fades out after nine minutes and more. It doesn't surprise me to read in their Press release how they have incorporated many classical players and a choir in order to capture their grandiose vision. The sound is large and there are layers which become evident on repetitive listens.

'A Bullet's Tale' continues the momentum set up by the first track and by the time you reach 'Running Out Of Tears' you're expecting something equally elaborate, but this track is an obvious choice for single with its immediate hook and chorus. Regarding pacing as you indulge the ears with this album, it's a sensible choice to have the songs in the order they are.

You may feel exhausted simply after the opening two songs, so having something that's accessible like 'Running Out Of Tears' where it is, works well.

Emphasis is placed occasionally on symphonic style Rock bands with female lead vocalists, and somehow despite the lengthy career of Royal Hunt, they get overlooked which is a shame. Royal Hunt was formed in 1989 with the first release in 1992” Andersen shared with me highlighting how long they had been active.

'A Life To Die For' is a fine constitution of orchestral themed arrangements which all culminate into the core of what Royal Hunt stand for these days. Check out both 'One Minute Left To Live' and 'Sign Of Yesterday' for proof. The vocal display from Cooper since he returned to the fold in 2011 has provided the band with such a solid dynamic. He's an underrated vocalist in the arena of melodic based Rock music.

'Won't Trust, Won't Fear, Won't Beg' and the title track both round off what is a layered release. It's almost easy to dismiss these songs on a first listen as a heavily produced keyboard-fest, but that would be doing the band and this album a disservice. There are many things going on within the mix of each song, and that's why the seven tracks on offer are an ideal portion size. Who wants to eat too much chocolate gateau and feel sick afterwards?

'A Life To Die For' is rich in texture, melody and all the elements the band have shared with their audiences over the years. My only criticism is that despite the melodious nature of the entire album, the instant hooks are thin on the ground and it doesn't grab my ear like the 'Show Me How To Live' album did. Nevertheless, fans of their work will adore this release, and those who like their Rock in a symphonic style should most certainly check this out.

1. Hell Comes Down From Heaven
2. A Bullet's Tale
3. Running Out Of Tears
4. One Minute Left To Live
5. Sign Of Yesterday
6. Won't Trust, Won't Fear, Won't Beg
7. A Life To Die For

D.C. Cooper – vocals
Jonas Larsen – guitars
André Andersen – keyboards, producer
Andreas Passmark – bass
Allan Sørensen – drums

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