While certainly not on par with, say, the Black Sabbath reunion, the news that vocalist DC Cooper had rejoined Royal Hunt definitely made waves in the melodic metal community. Cooper's departure from the band he helped put on the map (and vice versa) wasn't exactly amicable, and the idea of another Royal Hunt album with his instantly-recognizable vocals seemed like wishful thinking at best. And yet here we are, more than a decade after Cooper's last album with the band, and the fences between him and keyboardist/songwriter/producer Andre Andersen have apparently been mended. Enough at least for a new studio album, the band's eleventh, titled Show Me How To Live.
As good as the Royal Hunt albums with John West and Mark Boals were, it's Cooper's albums with the band - 1995's Moving Target and 1997's Paradox - that really define Royal Hunt's sound. That means the band had a lot to live up to, and for the most part Show Me How To Live delivers. Not a concept album like Paradox, Show Me How To Live has the less progressive, less epic, song-based approach of Moving Target. This puts the album more into melodic rock territory than the progressive metal sound they're best known for, but Royal Hunt does this kind of melodic metal really well. Andersen's dominant keyboards provide most of the album's melodic focus, and Cooper's dynamic range and powerful voice - augmented by some very impressive backing vocals - covers the rest. There's just something very satisfying and reassuring hearing Cooper's voice over Andersen's keys, and it helps that the songs are so solid. "Hard Rain's Coming" is the album's best song, rivaling anything Moving Target and Paradox had to offer, and the rest of Show Me How To Live - brief as it is - is quite strong. Mid-tempo songs like "Half Past Loneliness" and "Another Man Down" satisfy as much as the more epic 10-minute title track does.
Of course the down side of this very recognizable sound is that Show Me How To Live seems a bit too familiar at times. Andersen tends to stick with a formula that works, so there isn't much in terms of real growth or creativity here. It's a mix of what came before, almost to the point of borrowing melodies from Moving Target and Paradox. It also seems way too brief, with just seven songs spanning less than 45 minutes. We waited an awfully long time for this. It would have been nice to have a few more songs to sink our teeth into.
Those few minor gripes aside, Show Me How To Live is a really solid album, and a worthy successor to Moving Target and Paradox. It's as good, if not better than any of the previous Royal Hunt albums without Cooper, and is almost as good as anything Cooper has released since leaving the band (though it doesn't touch Silent Force's last album Walk the Earth.) If you were a Royal Hunt fan back in the `90s, Show Me How To Live is a must-have album. It should also appeal to fans of the later Royal Hunt lineups, DC Cooper's other projects and fans of high quality melodic metal in general. Hopefully this will not be the last time Cooper and Andersen join forces.