Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com Staff
Review By Lord of the Wasteland & EvilG
Germany’s Primal Fear is back with their 5th album, DEVIL’S GROUND. The new CD is a return to a more “traditional” sound after the band experimented with some different sounds on 2002’s BLACK SUN. There was some flack given by fans and apparently the band has listened and created a brilliant album in the vein of their earlier masterpieces. There is a new lineup on this CD, as well. The grossly underrated Randy Black (Annihilator) has replaced Klaus Sperling behind the kit and Tom Naumann returned to the band after a 3 year hiatus to replace Henny Wolter on second guitar. There is definitely a renewed energy that comes through on DEVIL’S GROUND. The songs are played with the precision expected from Primal Fear and of course Ralf Scheepers’ voice is stellar, but there is just something MORE.
Stealing a page from the Manowar playbook, the album kicks off with the anthemic “Metal Is Forever.” Listening to these songs makes me wonder how the PF guys would look in furry booties, loincloths and gauntlets? That aside, this is a real fist-pumper sure to work the live masses into a frenzy with its cool intro and stunning vocals from Scheepers. Alongside its counterpart, “In Metal,” whose opening riff is (hopefully) an homage to Judas Priest’s “Bloodstone,” the whole “metal brings the world together” theme is cheesy and tired. The songs are catchy, but those lyrics have got to go!!! “Visions of Fate” has a cool outro that begins at 4:20 with Black, Naumann and Stefan Liebing barreling through an aggressive bit of showmanship. “The Healer” is a slower song (dare I say a ballad?) that showcases Scheepers’ voice perfectly and the musicianship is superb on this track, too. Some killer solos can be found on “Suicide and Mania,” “Soul Chaser” and “Wings of Desire.” While many instantly claim Scheepers is a “rip off” of Rob Halford’s vocal style, the twin guitars of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are also similar to Primal Fear. Liebing and Naumann trade riffs like they’re on Wall Street and their talents are without question, especially on “The Healer” and “Sea of Flames.” In another Priest “homage,” listen to the chorus of “Soul Chaser” and imagine “Jawbreaker” from 1984’s DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH album. Pretty damn close!
Not all things are rosy in Deutschland, though. The title track is a spoken word mess with someone (I’m assuming Scheepers) reading a passage of warning to avoid Hell. This track sticks out like a sore thumb and thankfully it is the last cut on the disc. “Colony 13” doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the material either and is a chink in the otherwise perfect armor.
Matt Sinner’s crystal-clear production has given DEVIL’S GROUND the typical PF sheen, but without being too glossy. The vocals and instruments are carefully balanced and presented in such a way that Scheepers’ big voice doesn’t overshadow the rest of the band.
Rather than be redundant and repeat much of what LotW has already said, we thought to add my thoughts on the album here since I was also planning on reviewing this album this month. On my first listen to DEVIL’S GROUND I was mainly focusing on what the band might sound like with the new drummer and with returning guitarist Tom Naumann. The opening track “Metal is Forever” grabbed me right off with Ralf’s godly ear shattering scream of METAL IS FOREVER…FOREVER! This is a mid tempo metal hymn that will go down well live. The next two songs, while very good, have pretty much the exact same tempo and drum pattern. It had me thinking that Randy Black had forgotten a key component in Primal Fear…SPEED!!!! Thankfully after the first three songs the album picks up and offers more diversity with the tempo and drumming especially. All the other songs on here are standouts, especially the other metal anthem on here “In Metal” (despite having cheesy Manowar lyrics). Primal Fear don’t usually pen songs about the glory and the power of metal, but this time the album has two of them and they are two of the stronger tracks. Other highlights include “Sea of Flames”, “Soul Chaser” and “Heart of a Brave”. The only head scratcher on here is the spoken closing track “Devil’s Ground”. Upon first listen I didn’t even know it was all spoken and expected a real song to begin anytime…but no, the speaking went on and on south of heaven and got weirder and weirder with silliness about going to hell and the one specific creature that can escape from the burning lake of fire…and oh yeah the moral is, if you’re going there, you’re gonna fucking burn and writhe in pain forever! Just what were they smoking when they added this to the album? At least it’s the last track and it’s easy to press stop before it begins. So that’s my thoughts in a nutshell. I just need to add that BLACK SUN is not a let down album, and this album is not a return to form because the band’s focus has never wavered, their hearts have always been of steel, and this writer is starting to sound mighty cheesy so I’ll end it here. If you like aggressive Priestly power metal you should already worship this band. If you don’t, then I doubt you’ve read this far into my rant anyway.
Despite an impressive five-album, six-year career, Primal Fear seems content with their style. They aren’t trying to shake the inevitable Judas Priest comparisons or reinvent themselves. While BLACK SUN was a bit of a change in direction, that distinct Primal Fear sound was still intact and DEVIL’S GROUND keeps the momentum going. Primal Fear has consistently given its fans top quality songs and their latest CD offers no change.
LOTW’s KILLER KUTS: “Metal is Forever,” “Visions of Fate,” “The Healer,” “Wings of Desire”
EvilG’s PICKS: “Metal is Forever”, “In Metal”, “Heart of a Brave”, “Sea of Flames”, etc.