If you are a power metal fan, you have probably heard of Helloween. You probably know that Michael Kiske replaced Kai Hansen on vocals for their second album Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1. But what you might not know is that before Kiske and Helloween hooked up, they were fronted by former Tyran' Pace vocalist, Ralf Scheepers on a part-time basis. However, Ralf decided not to join the band when he was offered a fulltime position. Fast forward four years and you'll find Ralf and Kai forming Gamma Ray, essentially a continuation of Helloween (as Helloween seemingly forgot how to write music for ten years). With Gamma Ray, Scheepers helped craft three fairly successful albums and life was good. But it would get even better when influential metal band Judas Priest announced tryouts for their vacant vocal position. Ever the huge Priest fan, Ralf auditioned for said position and though he did not make it in the end, he was reportedly one of the finalists. So Ralf did the next best thing, forming Primal Fear. Over their now nine year career, the band has released six albums, their latest, Seven Seals, being released in 2005.
Primal Fear has always sounded a lot like Judas Priest. Specifically Judas Priest's monumental Painkiller album. Hell, their debut s/t album was prestigiously proclaimed the "album Judas Priest should have recorded instead of Jugulator." Primal Fear would spend years trying to resist the inevitable claims of them being a mere clone of their idols, but with Seven Seals they finally appear to piece together their own sound. Yes, the Priest influence is still very evident, they still make use of similar song writing and the music is still well versed in that of German power metal, but it has a different feel to it. These differences can be heard in most of the songs on Seven Seals, but is most apparent on two of the records epic tracks, Question of Honour and All for One. Of all Primal Fear's discography, these two songs are probably their most unique, and definitely among the strongest. Both songs feature strong song writing, excellent performances from each band member (though Ralph Scheepers has exceptional outings in both), and a vast array of effects, time changes, and emotions, and power. Primal Fear makes excellent use of acoustic passages, clean passages, overdriven and distorted passages; powerful, aggressive riffs and more melodic, emotional moments. Definitely two of the better tracks Primal Fear have pieced together since its inception. Most importantly, however, the German power metal band has seemingly found its own groove in the realm of power metal, and has placed the Primal Fear stamp on their music.
Throughout Seven Seals, Primal Fear does an excellent job incorporating both their older (albeit more generic) formula and their few found formula into their music. Of the former style, Rollercoaster is the most excellent piece (and arguably one of the band's best. Around four and a half minutes in length, it combines the fast paced riffing, introspective lyrics, and intense vocal efforts that the band has become known for. It definitely wouldn't feel out of place on Judas Priest's Painkiller. The slower tracks, them being the likes of Carniwar, Seven Seals, Diabolus, and In Memory. Carniwar can not be described as anything less than a savage track. The track makes use of powerful imagery depicting the sheer brutality of war, as well as angry guitar work which draws listeners a very effective picture of what the band was trying to create. The title track, on the other hand, is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Ralf Scheepers rightfully takes the spotlight here with his sombre, yet powerful vocal delivery. Again, powerful lyrical writing, this time in the form of a mournful tale of Armageddon (in the Biblical sense) is made use of and the result is quite enjoyable.
After the boring, lacklustre Devil's Ground, Primal Fear bounced back to the top of the German power metal ranks with their sixth full length album, Seven Seals. Somewhat of a departure from the familiar Judas Priest worship which could be heard throughout albums like Jaws of War and Nuclear Fire, the band incorporates excellent emotional hooks, a greater atmospheric touch, and a unique, powerful imagery to go along with their power metal arsenal. Seven Seals is by far Primal Fear's greatest release yet, and is home to some of their strongest, most enjoyable material. Definitely an essential album for all fans of power metal, especially fans of the German style. Keep up the good work Ralf; I look forward to hearing more in the future.
Question of Honour
All for One