PRIMAL FEAR must be one of the most prolific bands in the power metal scene. Twenty-two years after their excellent self-titled debut, the Germans will release their thirteenth studio record entitled “Metal Commando,” which brings them back to their original record label, Nuclear Blast Records, after a six-album run with Frontiers. In addition to the well-established line-up with three guitarists consisting of Alex Beyrodt, Tom Naumann, and Magnus Karlsson, along with co-founding members Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner, newcomer Michael Ehré (current drummer of GAMMA RAY, among other countless credits) joins the party. The somehow dull artwork may not be the most impressive in their career, but as the saying goes, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” You can check out our interview with Ralf here.
The album opens with the lead single, “I Am Alive,” a powerful and straight-forward song featuring plenty of melodic riffs and an energetic beat that immediately puts you in the right mood. The great vocal shape of Mr. Scheepers becomes evident immediately with his catchy vocal lines and trademark harmonies. A great start that continues with the highly enjoyable “Along Came the Devil,” a mid-tempo song full of rock attitude, chains, and leather, with a more radio-friendly approach and infectious chorus. The guitar trio showcase a feast of twin guitar duets while the third guitar continues to play the main riff. I wasn’t very impressed with the song when it first came out as a single, but it’s one of those songs that grows on you with every listen.
Next in the line, we have the perfect treat for fans of the early days of the band. I’m talking about the brilliant “Halo.” Without falling into unnecessary nostalgic clichés, the Germans shoot a power metal cannonball that immediately knocks you down and could easily be taken from “Nuclear Fire.” It is a track with the potential to become a PRIMAL FEAR classic – fast and melodic, bombastic and epic, and I’m running out of adjectives to describe it. It’s one of the highest points of the album and one of their best songs ever, no doubt about it. With “Hear me Calling,” they slow things down and let us catch our breath after such a frantic start. It is a rather lukewarm sort-of ballad that goes down a bit unnoticed, but in the context of the album serves to cleanse your palate.
“The Lost & The Forgotten” stands out for a more aggressive approach to the riffing, with a rebel attitude and a very inspired Ralf delivering supersonic high notes, cursing with style. For speed junkies, “My Name is Fear” is just what you wished for, with a flawless Michael Ehré behind the drum kit blasting his double bass unstoppably, as if his life depended on it. Again, we have mind-blowing harmonies and full-speed guitar solos courtesy of Karlsson and company. In contrast, “I Will Be Gone” is a smooth acoustic ballad that transports you straight into the glory days of glam metal, as if they were trying to create a hit for MTV. It’s an unusual song by PRIMAL FEAR‘s standards, but it works well despite that.
After this short break in intensity, the excellent “Raise Your Fists” suddenly wakes us up with a windstorm of fresh air. It’s clearly a song intended to be performed live and to involve the audience in the chorus, screaming at the top of your lungs with your fist up high. The riffs are very playful, the rhythm is contagious and almost dancable, with lots of 80s vibes. “Howl of the Banshee” is another one of those songs that reminds you of their earlier works, with powerful riffs full of energy and those irresistible vocal melodies that only a champ like Ralf can create again and again. The versatility and consistence of the band becomes evident when they manage to merge such a large number of influences and ideas into a single album without losing their essence.
In “Afterlife,” we experience them at their heaviest, with an outstanding display of power by Michael Ehré, bashing his drums while Scheepers delivers a performance that justifies why he was considered to replace Rob Halford back in the day. After all, JUDAS PRIEST‘s influence on the Germans’ sound is undeniable, although over the years they have developed their own style and identity. As the closer, we have “Infinity,” an epic 13-minute roller coaster that takes you through all kinds of emotions, including moments filled with ferocity, extensive instrumental sections, and delicate acoustic passages. It is probably the most ambitious song in their career thus far and it works as a final master stroke to this new installment.
With “Metal Commando,” PRIMAL FEAR show that, despite regularly releasing albums, they are far from running out of ideas, able to surprise us with a refreshing, well-balanced, and varied collection of metal anthems. The production and mixing are flawless, with great modern sound, especially in the drums. The songwriting core of the band led by the legendary Mat Sinner seems to be more inspired than ever, going back to the sound that made them so popular in the beginning of the new millennium and allowing them to return in all majesty and glory to the label that saw them grow during their first years. It’s a real shame that their promotional tour with FREEDOM CALL has been postponed until next year, but we will be surely looking forward to seeing the German metal commandos in action once again.
Written by David Araneda
- I Am Alive
- Along Came the Devil
- Hear Me Calling
- The Lost & The Forgotten
- My Name Is Fear
- I Will Be Gone
- Raise Your Fists
- Howl of The Banshee
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, vocals
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars
Magnus Karlsson – guitars
Michael Ehré – drums
Nuclear Blast Records
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”