Album Review – Primal Fear / Apocalypse (2018)

The Teutonic eagles of Power Metal return with another sensational opus showcasing the perfect amount of creativity, teamwork, aggressiveness, melody and professionalism.

Whenever you feel the urge to bang your head until the end, enjoying some first-class Heavy Metal with a powerful and melodic European twist, you know you can count on German Power Metal masters Primal Fear to provide you the exact amount of electricity, stamina and epicness you’re looking for. Not only all of their albums are well-crafted and extremely entertaining, but the band comprised of frontman Ralf Scheepers, the iconic bassist Mat Sinner, the guitar trio Magnus Karlsson, Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann, and drummer Francesco Jovino are beyond professional and focused on their work, releasing a steady stream of albums through the years, such as their latest (and amazing) full-length installments Delivering the Black, in 2014, and Rulebreaker, in 2016, a very good sign that the band is a million light-years away from calling it quits (for our total delight).

Now in 2018 the Teutonic eagles of Power Metal return with another sensational opus titled Apocalypse, the twelfth studio album in their career and another solid statement that Heavy Metal will never die while bands like Primal Fear are out there. The main difference between Apocalypse and some of their previous albums is that, in their new album, the band experimented more with different styles, elements and nuances, making it a fresh listen from the opening track until its breathtaking conclusion. “My personal highlight of recording the album was the fantastic teamwork. Peaceful, focused and really creative,” says Mat Sinner. “No big discussion, no heated arguments. Everybody did a fantastic job and the performances were top notch. This was the key to improve every little detail of the songs, from old school to epic, from modern to symphonic, from fast to slow — you will hear it all on ‘Apocalypse’.” After such spot-on words by Mat, all we need to do to enjoy the music in Apocalypse to the fullest is spreading our metallic wings and flying together with the band. And after listening to Apocalypse, I’m sure you’ll go back to the start and repeat that adventure all over again.

In the intro Apocalypse, a heartbeat amidst epic sounds announces a Heavy Metal thunder is about to strike in New Rise, an old school, thrilling German Power Metal hymn the likes of Gamma Ray and Helloween (which obviously means it kicks fuckin’ ass) where Francesco takes the lead with his crushing beats together with the riffs fired by the band’s trio of fantastic guitarists, building the perfect atmosphere for Ralf to showcase his insanely potent voice. And if that wasn’t already a rip-roaring start to the album, the next tune, titled The Ritual, which in my humble opinion is the best of all songs in Apocalypse, will simply hit you hard straight in the face. This is one of those electrified, pounding tunes closer to their latest albums where the fusion of their neck-breaking riffs and beats with the enraged high-pitched vocals by Ralf sounds more than just amazing, supported by Mat’s always effective backing vocals, followed by the melodic and smooth King of Madness, an almost power ballad that will please fans of the lighter (but more obscure) side of the band, also displaying those traditional Primal Fear lyrics (“A battlefield filled with fools, / a thousand hearts lost in the dark. / Those who win are just tools, / a way for him to let the crazy rule.”).

Blood, Sweat & Fear is another straightforward tune where the band once again shows their interesting passion for wordplays with the word “fear” in their song names, with its rhythmic and vibrant pace being driven by Francesco’s precise drums while Magnus, Alex and Tom sound as slashing as Power Metal can be; followed by the power-ballad Supernova, a song with some good moments but that never really clicks due to the lack of that usual passion and vibe from their old ballads (and I do love pretty much all ballads by Primal Fear, I might say). Fortunately, that uninspired vibe is quickly replaced by a beautiful shredding that morphs into a dark, headbanging tune titled Hail to the Fear, with Mat and his rumbling bass together with Francesco’s beats generating a strong base for Ralf to thrive one more time on vocals, not to mention its exciting rush of classy guitar solos. And in Hounds of Justice we’re treated to the purest form of Primal Fear, which means scorching hot guitar riffs, a thunderous vibe and killer vocals, also presenting elements from some of their old songs from Seven Seals and New Religion as well as their trademark fighting lyrics (“Another warning without any trace / Another kick straight in your face / Another morning you’ll be on the run / Trouble is coming ’till the day is done / Another strike no more peace alive / Another hit nothing humanized / We want the truth broken and abused / The finger on the trigger is no excuse”). Needless to say, this song will sound simply fantastic when played live without any doubt.

Then get ready for more pounding drums and a classic and harmonious work done by the band’s guitar triumvirate in The Beast, delivering pure Heavy Metal from start to finish in a more-than-enjoyable mid-tempo composition, whereas Eye of the Storm presents a Heaven & Hell-inspired start led by the low-tuned, devilish bass by Mat, evolving into a gorgeous power-ballad showcasing crisp guitar lines and a superb performance by Ralf. Furthermore, the band blends several elements from Doom and Symphonic Metal into their core Power Metal in this powerful tune, flowing majestically until its climatic ending, before Cannonball presents Primal Fear’s final blast of pure metal music to crack your neck in half, with highlights to the merciless axes by Tom, Magnus and Alex. Hence, while you headbang to this rousing chant, it’s a very good idea to sing the chorus along with Ralf and the guys to make everything even more engaging. And last but not least, if you buy the special edition of the album you’ll be treated to some amazing bonus songs, with Into the Fire, my favorite of them, beinging forward the cream of the band’s classic Heavy Metal with hints of Hard Rock in four and a half minutes of sheer awesomeness.

If the end of the world is near or not (and Primal Fear already sung about that in their previous albums), no one knows for sure. However, we can rest assured that if the world finally comes to its end in a not-so-distant future, Ralf, Mat & Co. are building a respectful collection of metal anthems perfect for fighting to survive until our last breath with all of their releases, including the excellent Apocalypse (available in different formats and locations HERE), an album that will certainly keep all of the band’s diehard fans happy and the band itself more-than-active in the scene and ready to take your hometown by storm without any warning. And whenever that happens, you know exactly where you should be, raising your horns and saluting one of the most electrifying, hardworking and consistent metal acts of our generation armed with their apocalyptic, unrelenting and awe-inspiring Power Metal.

Best moments of the album: New Rise, The Ritual, Hounds of Justice, Eye of the Storm and Into the Fire.

Worst moments of the album: Supernova.

Released in 2018 Frontier Records

Track listing
1. Apocalypse 1:44
2. New Rise 4:13
3. The Ritual 4:05
4. King of Madness 4:25
5. Blood, Sweat & Fear 4:55
6. Supernova 5:21
7. Hail to the Fear 5:05
8. Hounds of Justice 3:51
9. The Beast 3:42
10. Eye of the Storm 8:00
11. Cannonball 4:43

Boxset/Deluxe/Japanese Edition Disc 1 (CD) bonus tracks
12.Fight Against Evil 4:25
13.Into the Fire 4:33
14.My War Is Over 4:41

Japanese Edition Disc 1 (CD) bonus track
15.Supernova (Orchestral version) 5:05

Boxset/Deluxe/Japanese Edition Disc 2 (DVD)
1.King of Madness (video) 4:23
2.The Ritual (video) 4:06
3.Making of “Apocalypse” (Mini-Documentary) 14:41

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Magnus Karlsson – guitars, keyboards
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars
Francesco Jovino – drums

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Album Review – Primal Fear / Rulebreaker (2016)

Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?

Rating2

coverOne important thing must be said about the action-packed Rulebreaker, the brand new release by German Power Metal soldiers Primal Fear. Although the album is called “Rulebreaker”, there are barely any rules being actually broken by the band in its 50 minutes of pure effulgent Heavy Metal. However, who said rules must be broken for a metallic band such as Primal Fear to thrive? The eleventh studio album by this long-established Teutonic act might not aim at all at revolutionizing heavy music, but it will unquestionably put you to bang your heads and raise your fists (and beers) to the unique sound of the most traditional form of Power Metal, and for me that’s pretty much all we need in a good metal album.

There are a few new elements added to Rulebreaker that end up differentiating it from the most recent releases by Primal Fear. First of all, it marks the debut of Italian drummer Francesco Jovino (U.D.O., Edge of Forever), a high-skilled musician who brings everlasting stamina to the band’s musicality. Secondly, German artist Stephan Lohrmann returns as the designer of the band’s emblematic eagle on the cover artwork for the first time since their 2006 compilation Metal Is Forever – The Very Best of Primal Fear. And last but not least, the album also features a third guitarist, the left-handed Tom Naumann, back as a permanent member of the band after a long studio break (since their 2005 album Seven Seals) and after touring with the band for the past two to three years. And with that “triple axe attack” you can have a very good idea of how blazing the band’s riffs and solos are going to sound.

Are you awake? Are you alive? Are you ready for a fight? That’s what you’re going to get in the opening track, the excellent Angels of Mercy, a song that represents all we love in the music by Primal Fear, including their powerful riffs, pounding drums, and Ralf Scheepers kicking fuckin’ ass as usual. The crisp production of the album only makes this song even better, as well as its official video presenting everything we live for, or in other words, girls, leather jackets and spikes, motorbikes and, obviously, Heavy Metal played louder than hell (at the “legendary” Rule Breaker’s Inn). In the electric metal chant The End Is Near, newcomer Francesco doesn’t take it easy with his beats, which is one of the main reasons why this tune so gripping, not to mention its sing-along chorus perfectly screamed by Ralf. And the metallic party goes on with Bullets & Tears and its Judas Priest-ish vibe, more specifically “Breaking the Law”, putting you to dance with the band. Moreover, Mat Sinner is not only an amazing metal bassist, but his work on the album production is superb, delivering a polished and melodic sounding no matter how heavy the music gets like in this amazing tune.

primal fear 2016The title-track Rulebreaker is a great Heavy Metal/Hard Rock hymn, the best of the whole album in my opinion, where all instruments sound solid and fiery, showcasing another lesson in Power Metal by Ralf on vocals while the bass lines by Mat keep breathing thunder. In addition, its powerful chorus sounds like a tribute to Lemmy, which obviously means it’s badass (“He’s a rulebreaker / Hell on wheels / And it’s not my last goodbye / Rulebreaker / Hell on wheels / And there’s no one left to hide / He’s a rulebreaker / Born a rebel and born to die alone / Rulebreaker / Hell on wheels / Into the great unknown”). And despite In Metal We Trust being as cliché as possible, the work done on guitars by the razing trio Magnus, Alex and Tom is awesome, and its overall electricity will make sure we all go mental during their live performances.

The 11-minute song We Walk Without Fear is very similar to “One Night in December”, from their previous album, with highlights to its beautiful guitar lines and smooth passages, as well as the flawless vocals by Ralf; whereas At War with the World, boosted by its uprising lyrics (“There is something deep inside me / That keeps my faith alive tonight / You’re gonna burn, there’s no return / A fight to survive”), presents the listener a perfect combination of speed and heaviness. I love the high energy of this simple but effective Power Metal tune, not to mention how Primal Fear have truly mastered the art of crafting catchy choruses through the years. In The Devil in Me, the band offers something between the classic “Heaven & Hell” by Black Sabbath and many songs by Manowar, but it feels a little out of place amidst so many high-octane songs. I enjoyed the accurate synchronicity between Mat and Francesco during the whole song, though.

primal fear_rulebreaker_boxset

Primal Fear Rulebreaker Limited Edition Boxset

Things speed up again with Constant Heart, where the guitars are like nuclear weapons so heavy they sound. It can’t get more Primal Fear than this, with Ralf’s potent vocals excelling once again in special through the song’s ascending chorus. But as we can always expect emotional heavy ballads coming from Primal Fear, it’s time to soothe our souls with The Sky Is Burning, a memorable tune thanks to its harmonious guitars and passionate vocals. Lastly, in Raving Mad we can enjoy the high-pitched screams by Ralf reaching the skies in a powerful fusion of madness and metal, spiced up by the song’s deranged lyrics (“Can’t sort the pictures all blurred and skewed / Dystopian vision I’m simply screwed / Schizophrenic – addled brain”), putting a maniacal end to the regular version of this more than pleasant album. And if you get any of the special editions of Rulebreaker, there’s more incredible Heavy Metal for you to relish, especially the orchestral alternate version for “The Sky Is Burning” that comes in the Japanese deluxe edition of the album.

And in case your craving for the uproarious Power Metal by Primal Fear keeps burning inside you incessantly, the special edition of Rulebreaker also comes with a DVD including the official videos for “Angels of Mercy” and “The End Is Near”, and the making of the album. Well, I think I don’t even need to mention the magnitude of the special Rulebreaker boxset strictly limited to a thousand copies, which includes the deluxe edition digipak version of the album, the DVD and an eaglehead sculptur, right? Anyway, I read somewhere Primal Fear never have anything innovative to offer fans of Heavy Metal, but I don’t recall that being an issue for this band at any point of their career. Quite the contrary, this metallic eagle from Germany doesn’t need to break any existing rules to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music, and Rulebreaker is a faultless illustration of the band’s galvanizing traditionalism and dominance.

Best moments of the album: The End Is Near, Bullets & Tears, Rulebreaker, At War with the World and the alternate version of The Sky Is Burning.

Worst moments of the album: The Devil in Me.

Released in 2016 Frontier Records

Track listing
1. Angels of Mercy 3:35
2. The End Is Near 4:27
3. Bullets & Tears 3:05
4. Rulebreaker 4:38
5. In Metal We Trust 3:34
6. We Walk Without Fear 10:45
7. At War with the World 4:06
8. The Devil in Me 4:44
9. Constant Heart 4:50
10. The Sky Is Burning 4:45
11. Raving Mad 3:14

Deluxe edition digipak bonus tracks
12. Final Call 4:04
13. Don’t Say You’ve Never Been Warned 4:23 

Japanese deluxe edition bonus track
14. The Sky Is Burning (Alternate Mix) 3:48

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Magnus Karlsson – guitars, keyboards
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars
Francesco Jovino – drums