The SEVEN SEALS Early Listening Party
Report & Photos By Lord of The Wasteland & Tanay Ulgen
**Other pics from PrimalFear.de
When it was announced in April that Primal Fear would be flying to Vancouver to mix their upcoming CD with acclaimed producer Mike Fraser (Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith), I thought it might be a long-shot to see some of the band members at a local show at best. Once the band actually arrived in our city, on a hunch, I decided to make some inquiries as to whether or not it would be possible to interview the band and possibly sit in on a day of work at Warehouse Studios to preview the new songs and do a write-up for the readers of Metal-Rules.com. As both a fan of the band and as a writer, the opportunity was golden. Sadly, ?another? magazine beat me to the punch however I was offered the next best thing?admittance to an ultra-exclusive listening party of the new tracks on May 19th. Needless to say, they didn?t have to ask me twice.
As one of about 25 people to get such an invitation, I can safely reveal that the new CD, with a working title of THE SEVEN SEALS, is everything fans have come to expect from Primal Fear?twin guitar melodies, a powerful rhythm section and the oh-so-sweet vocals of the mighty Ralf Scheepers. Rumor has it that THE SEVEN SEALS will contain a ballad and from what was heard, the band is experimenting and branching out from the confines of the genre. Middle Eastern flair, ultra-heavy guitars and symphonic solos peppered the tracks with a breath of fresh air many argue is needed in the Primal Fear catalogue after five releases. Scheepers has really stretched himself as a vocalist here with experiments and new things that have never before been laid down on record. The lightning-fast riffing is still present in spots but the band seems to have slowed a bit to show that they also have some chops that may go unnoticed at an otherwise busy-bee pace. Dark, brooding moments are off-set by anthemic, melody-filled pieces. The heaviest song the band has ever done was also presented and all I can say is?WOW! If the remainder of THE SEVEN SEALS is as interesting as the tracks played on this night, Primal Fear will clearly be taking its musical career to the next level upon its release.
Along with representatives from PHD Canada (Nuclear Blast Records? Canadian distributor), the band (less guitarist Stefan Liebing, who did not make the trip to Canada) hosted a cozy gathering in a small room at The Railway Club spinning their latest opus with Scheepers acting as DJ. Twelve songs are expected to be laid down for a fall 2005 release but we were only allowed to hear seven unmastered tracks as the rest were not yet finished. The cool thing about this get-together was that we weren?t surrounded by suits and industry bigwigs. As PHD president Steve Dickson announced, this was set up solely for fans and people from webzines (like Metal Rules!!) to help spread the word and to get feedback on the new songs. What better people to be the first IN THE WORLD to hear these new songs than those who would actually listen to them and appreciate them rather than a bunch of stuffed shirts talking business and not even knowing who Primal Fear is? Two guys (one sporting a giant Primal Fear eagle mascot on his back) even took a five-hour bus ride just to be there and bought rounds of drinks for everyone in their bliss! Some familiar faces were present including JJ and Dennis from Scrape Records (thanks for co-hosting and for the Saturday afternoon Primal Fear meet & greet), Offal from local grind maniacs Crackwhore and Stu Block from Into Eternity/Omega Crom. PHD was giving away door prizes including a full Primal Fear CD library, a Nuclear Blast t-shirt and, as Dickson joked, ?a night with Ralf Scheepers.?
After some socializing and a few drinks, Scheepers and bassist Mat Sinner spoke about the new songs and thanked everyone in attendance (I think I can speak for everyone and say it was OUR PLEASURE!) before pressing play. Scheepers was constantly fiddling with the house system and re-directing the speakers as the tracks played but from where I sat, these are among the strongest tracks the band has ever recorded. Track titles include ?Question of Honor,? ?Rollercoaster,? ?Evil Spell,? ?The Immortal Ones,? ?Demons & Angels,? ?Carniwar,? ?The Union,? ?Evil Men Do,? ?Diabolos,? ?Higher Power,? ?Seven Seals,? ?All For One? and a special bonus track.
Scheepers introduced each track by name before it was played so below is a track-by-track breakdown of the seven songs played. It must be taken into account that there was a lot of talking happening and trying to hear every nuance of these tracks was impossible but these are first impressions that I got:
Demons & Angels
The familiar galloping rhythm is present here that gets the ball rolling. Excellent guitars and Scheepers? vocal range has never been greater and it bookends a symphonic keyboard solo that would not be out of place on a Nightwish album.
All For One
A slow-building intro leads into an anthemic fist-pumper that will fit well into the band?s live set. This is on par with tracks like ?In Metal? and ?Metal Is Forever? from DEVIL?S GROUND. This track also features?dare I say it?a breakdown that highlights Randy Black?s impeccable drumming skills with a searing guitar solo to follow. A real standout track to watch for.
Reportedly, this will be the title cut of the new album. The Middle Eastern intro may be what the band was referring to when they described the ?different? sound of the new songs. Scheepers? double-tracked vocals will make the hairs on your neck stand up on this one!
The Immortal Ones
Naumann and Liebing?s guitars take on a crunch like I have yet to hear on a Primal Fear album. Very heavy.
My absolute favorite of the bunch. This is the fastest and heaviest track the band has ever done and it blew me away. The quiet intro is unassuming enough but Scheeper?s vocals are pure evil (no pun intended) and should prove wrong any naysayers who still claim he is nothing more than a Rob Halford rip-off. Near the end of the track, a headbanging frenzy of drums and guitar riffs take over as if the band was possessed in studio.
Slow and dark at over seven minutes, this track is perhaps the band?s most ambitious ever production-wise with multi-tracked vocals and strings. Sinner?s bass really stands out creating an ominous presence over the track that could possibly be an extension of the theme begun with the title track from DEVIL?S GROUND.
Question of Honor
Sadly, the last of the tracks we got to hear but no less powerful as the previous six. Heavy, wavering between dark and lighter moments and epic in length, this song is certainly the epitome of the tangents taken by Primal Fear on this record. Fans will either love it (which I predict) or hate it but there is no denying that Primal Fear have gone out on a limb here.
Look for THE SEVEN SEALS to be released sometime in fall 2005 on Nuclear Blast Records.
***Many thanks to Primal Fear for choosing Vancouver to work on their new CD and also for taking the time out of their short stay in Canada to come down for this very special event to meet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs and talk about the new record. Thanks also to Loana at Nuclear Blast and Steve, Leigh and the good people at PHD Canada for hosting and inviting the privileged few to hear what is sure to be a late contender for album of the year.
Lord of The Wasteland