Concert Review – Primal Fear & Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (The Mod Club, Toronto, ON, 06/01/2016)

In metal we trust, for metal we live. And last night in Toronto was just another beautiful attestation of all that passion for heavy music, courtesy of the indomitable Primal Fear and the epic Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody.

OPENING ACT: Vesperia

NorthAmerica-PFLTR-TourLet me start this review by thanking Mother Nature for being so amazing to all Torontonians since the end of winter, providing us some beautiful sunny days, warmer-than-usual temperatures and almost no precipitation. And when the weather is as good as now, there’s nothing better than going out with your friends and loved ones for a beer and some good old Heavy Metal, right? If you’re a true metalhead, a true lover of old school Power Metal, last night was the perfect occasion for that to the sound of three excellent heavy bands at the cozy The Mod Club, starting with Canadian Epic/Progressive Death Metal band VESPERIA.

IMG_1344Promoting their latest installment, their 2015 EP entitled The Iron Tempests, which by the way helped them win the 2015 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada (and consequently play at the biggest metal festival on earth the same year), this talented quartet showcased all their refined abilities with their instruments during their entire performance, with this demolishing and intricate uproar made in Canada being masterfully led by lead singer and bassist Morgan Rider. Unfortunately I do not have the setlist for their presentation (I know they played songs like Iron Saga and In the Hall of the Mountain King), but I can assure you each and every song sounded just amazing on stage. If you’re searching for a new band that offers complex passages, blazing riffs and an endless amount of stamina in their music, Vesperia might be exactly what you’ve been craving for.

Band members
Morgan Rider – vocals, bass
Frankie Caracci – lead guitars
Casey Elliott – guitars
Dylan Gowan – drums

PRIMAL FEAR

IMG_1353After Vesperia was over, all the metalheads at the venue had a short break to have another beer or quickly go to the washroom before German power metallers PRIMAL FEAR came crushing our ears with their thunderous and metallic music. When you’re a band like Primal Fear, all you have to do to hypnotize the audience right away is kicking off the concert with one of your best compositions to date, and last night not only they did that, but they chose my favorite tune of all to start their setlist, the flammable and thrilling Final Embrace. After that masterpiece, the unstoppable Ralf Scheepers, Mat Sinner & Co. kept firing some of their biggest classics blended with brand new songs from the awesome Rulebreaker, and the reaction of the fans to the new songs couldn’t have been better. Well, you know an album is goddamn amazing when fans really want to listen to new songs on the show, right?

IMG_1370From all new songs played, the ones that drew the most excited screams from the fans and made everyone at the venue raise their fists in the air were Rulebreaker and The End Is Near, not to mention their beautiful performance during the power ballad The Sky Is Burning. In regards to their top-notch metal classics, as a huge fan of the band I must say Angel in Black, Sign of Fear and Metal Is Forever drove the audience crazy while they were being played. Who doesn’t love to scream the words “There is blood there is pain / But my agony is not in vain / Cause there’s life after death / And I’m sure coming back to attack / As an angel in black” together with Ralf and the rest of the band?

IMG_1360The entire band was incredible as usual, with highlights to the explosive performances by Mat and the new drummer Francesco Jovino. Obviously, I don’t need to describe the perfection which Ralf sang all songs of the setlist, nor how guitarists Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann blasted some potent riffs and solos throughout the whole concert. The only issue during this entire North American tour was the absence of their third guitarist, Magnus Karlsson, despite having recorded the new album. Three guitarists live would have been awesome, but anyway, it was another exceptional performance by one of the best Power Metal acts in the world (just as good as their 2014 concert in Toronto), and after the encore was over with two more classics, Rollercoaster (another one of their songs I truly love) and Running In The Dust, the German troopers were gone and it was time to set the stage for the last concert of the night. I was expecting Primal Fear to headline the night, but that’s fine, we all got our share of their brilliant Power Metal. There was absolutely nothing to complain about that.

Setlist
Countdown to Insanity/Jaws of Death
Final Embrace
In Metal We Trust
Angel in Black
Rulebreaker
Sign of Fear
The Sky Is Burning
Nuclear Fire
Angels of Mercy
The End Is Near
When Death Comes Knocking
Chainbreaker
Metal Is Forever

Encore:
Rollercoaster
Running In The Dust

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

LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY

IMG_1388It was indeed a huge surprise for me that Italian Epic/Cinematic Metal band LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY was the main attraction of the night. Nothing against them, but I believe Primal Fear are a lot more relevant to the world of heavy music than Luca and his crew, especially after all the countless changes the band has suffered through the years. Honestly, I lost count of how many times the band switched from one name to another, all the band members coming and going, and so on. I don’t know anymore if a song was originally recorded by Rhapsody, by Rhapsody of Fire, by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody or by any other of those weird ramifications. If you’re a fan of any of those bands (or just a fan of one of them, who knows), please forgive me for my ignorance.

IMG_1386Anyway, what can I say about a band that claims to play “Cinematic Metal”? All fans were able to actually witness the soundtrack to an epic battle movie, one of those fantasy blockbusters full of dragons, knights, princesses and so on. The band itself looks very theatrical (and sometimes even cartoon-ish), and their performance was a lot better than what I was expecting, especially the idiosyncratic moves and facial expressions by the band’s leader, Mr. Luca Turilli. It was fun watching him firing his complex riffs while prancing around the stage with his stylish hair and a Guess T-shirt. Truly unique, I should say.

Although I got lost in time with all the changes that affected the original Rhapsody, it was a pleasure to see the band playing old classics like Unholy Warcry (my favorite of their setlist) and Emerald Sword, whereas at the same time their Game Of Thrones-themed drum solo was a very welcome surprise for all fans. My only complaint about their concert was the excessive usage of pre-recorded sounds used for all orchestrations and choir. I bet when they play at any European festivals that shouldn’t be a problem, but for smaller venues it sometimes sounds like a metal karaoke. That’s not the band’s fault, though, just a minor annoying detail in their decent performance. Now please excuse me, as I have to grab my sword, my shield and get ready for battle.

Setlist
Nova Genesis (Ad Splendorem Angeli Triumphantis)
Knightrider of Doom
Rosenkreuz (The Rose and the Cross)
Land of Immortals
Unholy Warcry
Son of Pain
Prometheus
Drum Solo (Game Of Thrones Theme)
Il Cigno Nero
Guitar Solo
The Pride of the Tyrant
Demonheart
Bass Solo
Dawn of Victory

Encore:
Quantum X
Emerald Sword
Outro

Band members
Alessandro Conti – vocals
Luca Turilli – guitars
Dominique Leurquin – guitars
Patrice Guers – bass
Alex Landenburg – 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