Welcome to cover roulette!!!! For people who do not normally visit this blog, every now and then I (Eddie) like to review an album based on nothing but the cover. Today I am looking at a band I have heard of by name, but I cannot remember listening to them before; the band in question is Dutch speed metal titans, Primal Fear. Formed in 1997 the band have been delivering an eleven studio albums (this album obviously being number eleven), one live album and one best of compilation which was released when they left Nuclear Blast records. They are a name I would see in Metal Hammer, Terrorizer and other heavy metal publications and I would make a note to check them out one day; each time they released an album I would remember that I wanted to check them out, but never following up on it. Well, now I get a chance to find out what the band are all about - the cover is a bird of prey, a symbol that they have used throughout their career. They are also a band who court controversy by their own fan bases due to their own lyrics and the fact that they will not discuss them at all (according to Wikipedia - and of course that is a source of 'true' material (warning, that last sentence may contain sarcasm)). Personally, as I have not heard their music until this review I cannot make comment; but I soon will have an opinion once I have finished this review, so let us see what rules Primal Fear are deeming breakable......
Starting the sound with a sound akin to the loud drone noises in the film 'Inception' we are introduced to "Angel of Mercy" which comes across as a 'Painkiller'-era Judas Priest song, the riff is a hard and fast one that has a fantastic performance by the band in a way that some so called metal bands seem to shun these days. I can see why vocalist Ralf Scheepers was up for the job of replacing Rob Halford in Judas Priest when he left the band many moons ago, he has a very similar vocal range and it is an incredibly striking performance. The song is a fast and furious ball of fire-branded metal that is just fun; there might be depth and meaning behind the lyrics, but for me it is just a fun metal track which would be fun to has a mosh to or just relax whilst it is playing - a very good opening song. "The End Is Near" brings more power metal to the mix, it is another song that holds a certain sound, this time it is the Gothenburg sound of the melodic death metal era, but with a classic metal sheen added over that powerful guitar sound. It is certainly a song that delivers fist pumping metal to the audience, the sound is loud and it is a great tune. Is it the most original I have heard, no; is it still fun, yes. That is all you really want from metal sometimes, just a bit of fun and a song to lose your thoughts in. "Bullets & Tears" does a similar thing to "The End Is Near", but on this one the speed is slowed down and the Priest sound of the album comes through. It is a classic sound, it is a great hard rock track that hits all the right marks and it a great little kick to the sound. It is really nothing new and it a song that has been done in a million different formats by other bands (there are only so many notes in the world), but it is just a larger than life song that is not too serious and it is one that will have the faithful in awe and could easily get some new converts as well. The fourth song on this album is the title track of the album "Rulebreaker", it is another one that is not doing anything I would not expect from this type of metal album - loud guitars, thumping bass, pounding drums and lyrics which (if we are honest) are not going to win any Shakespeare contests, but are heartfelt and sung with the right degree of passion and intensity. In spite of myself, I like it and it really does make me smile - what is not to love on this one?
"In Metal We Trust" that takes the metal meter of this album and turns it up to Manowar, seriously this is one of the most OTT metal songs I have heard in years - the lyrics about the stage being a castle and the lights giving power are ridiculous and far-fetched, but that is what metal has to be sometimes as it is larger than life and it is a silly, but brilliant creature which lives on these sort of fantasies and brags. I have not enjoyed a song with this sort of lyrics for years and it is all down to the music, it just has that right level of intensity that makes all metal song tick, a solo that could cut down a tree and make it into a throne and a rhythm section that is likely to cause a localised earthquake if they are not too careful. Ludicrous and brilliant in the same heartbeat! Next is the sub-eleven minute "We Walk Without Fear" which will challenge the attention span of a lot of people, for me it is a clever track which only really has one flaw and that is the one-and-a-half-minute introduction. It is a long enough song without that and it could have been removed from the song and it would not have taken anything away from the remaining nine minutes of metal. But what of the rest of the song? Well, I think it is safe to say I let the cat out of the back early on when I said the only real problem is the intro, this song is a serious number as the length of the tune demands a more thoughtful and clinical mentality. It has a presence that is beautiful and my deity does it contain one hell of a riff! That sound and the shredding on the song are spot on, it is a great number that is one of the focal point of the album and rightly so. Which bring us to the next question - how do you follow a ten-minute plus track? Well, in the case of this album Primal Fear have went for the song "At War with The World". A song about a struggle that is both internal and external with the rest of the world is a strong and stirring number, a powerful riff which brings home a message of never giving up and never surrendering in the face of lots of struggles - another number that is going in the positive side of the check list for this album.
"The Devil in Me" is the eighth song of the album, a slow pounding song that looks once more at the inner demons of the man and struggle within. It is needed after a few high tempo number, just to bring everything down a little and to show that there is more than one speed to this band. It has classic metal at its core and it sounds like a band who are in supreme confidence, I am never usually into this sort of song and I am loving it! "Constant Heart" is just pure Priest worship, plain and simple it sounds like it was made around the time of 'Painkiller' and it has been in a vault just gathering dust. It might not be their goal to make a song that sounds as if they are being a Judas Priest tribute, but this song is the closest that they get on this album. But it is not a bad song, it is a very good song with a great riff and it sounds brilliant when played loud - but it does sound like a bit of a clone. The penultimate song is called "The Sky Is Burning" and we are in anthemic metal territory here with a song, for me this is a good as an anthemic metal song can get without going too sugary and sweet. It is a stable of the European Metal scene to have one of these songs on the album and it sounds fantastic, crisp and a song that will sound fantastic when thousands upon thousands join in when it is performed lived. "Raving Mad” just goes for the jugular on the way out the door - it is a full out attack mode metal number, loud guitars and a song that does exactly what it says on the tin. Is it the best song? Not really, to be honest it is one of the weakest on the album but it is a fun number to end the record and that is all you want from metal sometimes.
I find myself in a place I have not been since I was a teenager - I am liking a classic metal album, an OTT, larger than life, Judas Priest loving, high flying, riff munching, drum pounding, bass smashing, sky high vocal, son of a gun HEAVY METAL album! I have no illusions that this is not the most original album (sorry guys, it is not) and that is OK, as that is not what this sort of album is truly aiming for. It is aiming for originality in a strict set of parameters as it needs to keep the faithful happy, without really changing and it does that with style. It is also an album that will get new fans, for instance myself and I am sure it has made waves since its January release. It might not be my best album of 2016, but I am struggling to think of an album which was just all out fun for me - another cover roulette gem and a brilliant metal album from Primal Fear.
8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.
Top track - Rulebreaker
You can purchase Rulebreaker on Amazon here
You can visit the Primal Fear website here
You can follow the activities of Primal Fear on Facebook here
You can stream the deluxe version of Rulebreaker on Spotify here
You can stream the deluxe version of Rulebreaker on Deezer here
You can stream the deluxe version of Rulebreaker on Tidal here