Paragon Theorem are a five-piece hard rock band hailing from Hartford, Connecticut. Their music is a fusion of various kinds of hard rock, grunge and metal. Their many influences range from classic hard rock like Guns N’Roses, Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin to grunge bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden as well as modern rock/metal such as Deftones and Breaking Benjamin. They’ve been releasing music for several years, and before this album they released Bare Your Soul in 2013 and Inkwell in 2015, building up a strong fanbase in the process.
This third album, Bound By Gravity, consists of eleven tracks. It gets off to an incendiary start with the powerful low-end chords and muscular drum sound of Singularity. It also has some very modern elements, with guitars put through some futuristic sounding effects. On top of this colossal wall of sound, the compelling, raw and distinctive vocals of Brian Moore soar over the music and his style/tone brought to mind Layne Staley from Alice In Chains plus elements of the late, great Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave).
An effective vocalist is perhaps the important ingredient in the genre of hard rock/metal as it has to be a voice that can cut through a heavy barrage of guitars, bass and drums. Fortunately, Moore is exceptional and blessed with a fantastic vocal range. Featuring an anthemic chorus, lyrically Singularity is a very apposite and timely song about the consequences of science interfering with nature: “There’s a price to pay if you want to live forever, swap veins for copper wires, just trade in your heart for a shiny new battery…”.
Second song The Bottom swaps the societal for the deeply personal, an upbeat rock/metal track with angst ridden and brutally honest lyrics about struggling with deep depression: “Gotta find the bottom before it defines me, gotta find the bottom before it becomes six feet..…”. It features another excellent lead vocal performance along with some very effective Alice In Chains-style vocal harmonies. The guitar solo by lead guitarist Steve Delesdernier is superb, really letting rip near the end. Another instantly memorable hard rock anthem.
Next comes the title track, based around a blistering, meaty guitar riff. It’s another philosophical, existential song that reflects on the human race as the result of the blind process of evolution and the laws of physics: “No more than chemicals in a radiation bath, we’re all here together but we perceive alone….still just animals, no apparent path….”.
Invoking mythological characters like Sisyphus and Prometheus add further intellectual weight to the words, showing Paragon Theorem are a fair bit smarter then most of their contemporaries. The music melds the complex with the simple and effective, combining intricate riffage with a huge, chanted chorus.
Butanna shows the first example of variety in their sound, starting with crystalline acoustic guitars. It soon develops into another rocking track that depicts the bitter end of a long romantic relationship, as evidenced by the opening lines: “It’s not enough to say six years were wasted, they’re nothing but worthless memories…”. It contains one of the most instant vocal hooks on the album (“So long! So long! I do not wish you well!”) as well as some stellar, phenomenally fast lead guitar work.
Fifth track Combustion maintains the consistent high quality of the songwriting, this one standing out by virtue of the Avenged Sevenfold-esque dual lead guitar harmonies which really lift another strong chorus. Lyrically, it has a positive and defiant message to convey through lines like, “Nobody here can escape, nobody can get away, doesn’t mean that we should lay down and throw the towel in…”. The drumming of Josh Ingraham on this track deserves special credit, with some furious double-kick work in certain sections.
The Heist gives us a bigger glimpse of their more gentle and sensitive side. It’s a finely crafted ballad based around delicately picked acoustic guitar and lyrically tells the tale of Bonnie and Clyde from the first person perspective: “No, I can’t tell you why we make the choices we make, oh, I can’t tell you a lie, I think it might be the bags of money!”. The following APB is another song that displays their musical intelligence, with some fantastic triplet-based guitar lines overlaid over straight 4/4 to give the track a progressive metal feel.
Eighth song Charade is an entertaining track that opens with a spoken word monologue before launching into a hard hitting rocker that made me think of Faith No More’s Angel Dust, with its constantly shifting rhythms and complex arrangement. Lyrically, it’s a visceral takedown of someone who has turned out to be a fake: “The man with two faces masquerading as a God, with a homemade crown, he is…the Charade“. Again, some brilliant stacked guitar harmonies lift the music to another level.
Ninth song There is another fine example of their acoustic balladry, this one bringing to mind the more folky elements of Led Zeppelin through some very melodic and intricate guitar figures. It’s a refreshing change of pace after the juggernaut momentum of the previous tracks. This sound continues with the intro to Marvel, which then develops into their more signature style and another of their five minute epics. The nuanced contrasts in the arrangement mean this song rewards repeated listening.
The final song Wanted closes the album on a highly emotional and moving note, a heartfelt acoustic ballad featuring a captivating lead vocal from Brian Moore. It is reminiscent of the finest Aerosmith ballads, though with a greater emotional depth in the lyrics: “Bare your soul, show me everything you are…don’t be afraid, show me you every single scar…”. The Spanish sounding classical acoustic guitar lends a nice sophistication to this wonderfully sculpted song, ending the album quite literally on a high note.
Overall, Bound By Gravity deserves to be recognized as one of the best hard rock/metal albums of recent years. With an array of versatile musicians and blessed with a first rate rock vocalist, Paragon Theorem also excel at consistently writing memorable choruses with lyrics that stand up to analysis. The result is a hugely enjoyable musical journey that runs the gamut in terms of emotional range and subject matter.
VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10