Review Summary: Primal Fear takes the Judas Priest worship to a new level.
By now everybody who gives a damn about the German power/speed metal scene knows Primal Fear's debut album was heralded as the album that Judas Priest should have recorded instead of Jugulator (even though it was just as bad as Jugulator, save for one song). Everybody knows Primal Fear not only abuses the hell out of Judas Priest's Painkiller album, but pretty much imitates them as often as possible. Ironically enough, the extent of Primal Fear's Priest-isms isn't limited to the downright plagiarism of Judas Priest's music, as the German metal band is about as consistent as their idols as well. Much like Judas Priest's discography, which featured fantastic recordings such as the aforementioned Painkiller and uninspired coasters (British Steel, Turbo, Demolition –take your pick), Primal Fear's catalogue is rather up and down. For every worthwhile album they release, it's pretty much guaranteed that a couple of lousy ones will follow it up. The band's latest record, New Religion, does nothing to deviate from this pattern.
New Religion isn't a poor album because it shamelessly rips off Painkiller, however. Primal Fear has proven that they can take that sound and craft an album full of exciting, fist pumping anthems, ala Seven Seals and Black Sun. Nah, where the album falls is in the song writing quality. The only New Religion song which stands out at all is the ballad, Everytime it Rains. And even then, the song sounds almost exactly like the title track off Seven Seals, only with a lighter, more gothic metal emphasis and female vocals courtesy of Simone Simons of Epica. But the rest of the album, from the first down-tuned notes of Sign of Fear on has a listless feel to it, almost as though Primal Fear put no effort into its writing. The title track, specifically the chorus of the title track, sounds ridiculously off key. The Curse of Sharon is very bare, for the most part being made up of tepid riffs that provide a rather unsatisfactory rhythm to Scheepers' singing. And speaking of Ralf Scheepers, the only phrase that comes to mind when assessing his performance is: "what the hell happened?" The frontman's efforts used to be the most interesting aspect of Primal Fear's sound, but on New Religion the man sounds strained. His vocal cords aren't quite as shot as a certain Ozzy Osbourne's, but in songs such as Psycho and Too Much Time they fail to display the power and authority that made the likes of Rollercoaster and Thunderdome so compelling.
No longer seemingly content with lifting the sound of Judas Priest's strongest record, Primal Fear seems to have taken a liking in imitating the band's rather mediocre consistency record. With New Religion, Primal Fear fails to excel at the sound they've been building on for the better part of ten years now. Perhaps they're finally running low on good ideas, or maybe it's just the severe case of writer's block which seems to come up every other album, but the band just doesn't deliver significantly on any front. Don't bother checking out New Religion, as it's one of; if not the weakest album Primal Fear has recorded. Seven Seals and/or Black Sun are all you'll need from this band.