Tales of the Weird showcases Paradox’s scorching thrash-metal riffs, should finally take them beyond cult status in US

Any album which opens with a ten-minute epic of prog-metal magnificence deserves a rapid ascent on this critic’s radar. “Tales of the Weird,” the title track off German cult trash-metal act Paradox’s latest album, sets the table for significant ear-bending, and the album’s off and flying from there.

Not that they’re new to the game or anything of the sort — these guys have been out there rocking with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest since the mid-80s, and they’ve been giants of German metal since their first Roadrunner album Product of Imagination in 1987. Still, it’s incredible to hear just how seriously they’re still capable of crafting mind-altering riffage.

“Day of Judgment,” “Brutalized” and “Fragile Alliance” offer a three-tier gut-punch following the title-track’s initial barrage, and the band never lets up an ounce from there. The thundering percussion and skin-shredding guitar work on “Escalation” sits perfectly with the best songs they’ve ever recorded. Listen to this album straight through and you’ll understand why Paradox remains, at least in America, the best-kept secret of German metal. Here’s hoping Tales of the Weird eliminates the “secret” element from that equation.

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DEMO WATCH: Scott Wilson – “Starts To Rain”

Scott Wilson Gauss

Scott Wilson, of Indianapolis’s prog-metal band Gauss

I rang in the new year here at “Hear! Hear!” by recognizing “Empty Frames,” by Indianapolis prog-metal band Gauss, a 12-minute epic of progressive melodic metal which remains my favorite indie track so far this year. Turns out Scott Wilson, who handled guitar and vocal duties on that particular track, has remained hard at work so far through 2012 working up demos for a potential future album. He’s asked me to mention that these are home recordings, with weaknesses and kinks still to be worked out. But I believe these songs are worth examining as examples of the craft of songwriting; even the songs we now call classics started as humble demo recordings.

And though these are demos, the recording quality on “Starts to Rain” in particular showcases a song for which all the elements of a potential hit are there. Sure, the vocals are a little too far back in the mix and muddied, but the melody is there and I can’t keep that hook out of my head. It reminds me of 80s-era Peter Gabriel with a more progressive-metal bent, something I’d feel no qualms in sending to what few rock radio stations remain, once a studio version is complete.

Check the song out below and let me know in the comments what you think. If you’re so inclined, you can hear all the demos, plus the original “Empty Frames,” on Scott’s full SoundCloud page.