Catchy, fun, and unremarkable are words I would use to describe many Power Metal albums. Though many bands within the genre try their own unique sound, a number of faults could cause the release to be nothing more than a decent listen. Filler tracks, too much wankery, and a lack of diversity in their material could cause flaws within their music, and hurt the final product. Enter Devil’s Ground
, Primal Fear’s fifth album; an album that tries to play it safe with almost entirely fast and energetic tracks, but falls flat on its face. Though there are numerous enjoyable songs from this LP, and capture the persistent energy of Primal Fear, the band clearly has made Jaws of Death 2.0. Lacking diversity and originality in a lot of the music, Primal Fear creates a barely passable release with a few memorable songs.
These memorable songs come from two sources: Inspired songwriting, and proficient playing by the band. The writing of these songs, in itself, has three primary outcomes from this album: Awesome and catchy Power Metal, plodding, boring rehashes of their style, or failed experiments. The former includes songs like the anthemic “Metal is Forever,” and the fast-paced “Sacred Illusion.” Both songs are some of the best songs the band has made at this point, and perfectly display why Primal Fear deserves at least some respect among the many other Power Metal bands. Containing well-written and memorable verses and choruses, these are in complete contrast to the examples of stagnated writing. Many of the songs on this release resemble one another greatly, such as “Suicide and Mania,” “Visions of Fate,” and “Sea of Flames.” All in a row, the songs are all nearly identical in verses, choruses, instrumentals, and vocals; making what could have been an enjoyable listen become boring repetition. Though each of these songs are enjoyable, though typical, listens through a familiar Power Metal road, treading through this release becomes tiring as time goes on. By the time the album closes, many listeners will feel disappointed by this redundancy, though this is not the only problem of the songwriting.
The absolute worst part of this album is the attempts of experimentation, not the perpetual repetition of the band’s style. Though Primal Fear later experiments with their sound for the best on Seven Seals
, the attempts to try something new leave a lot to be desired on Devil’s Ground
. “The Healer,” the album’s ballad, is almost seven minutes in length; three of which are just from the chorus alone. Of all the songs that should be this long, the band chooses the absolute worst song to be drawn out to unpleasant lengths; making a forgettable and unnecessarily long listen. The title song also fails to captivate listeners, closing the album with a two-minute long spoken word monologue with no music whatsoever. Though it is nice to hear a band try something new, this “song” should have never been considered for an album of any kind.
Outside of these experiments, at least the Primal Fear knows how to create great performances. Performance-wise, Primal Fear does everything that you would expect from them at this point. You get melodic and chaotic solos, heavy riffs, simple but fitting drumming, effective bass playing, and remarkable singing throughout all of the songs; enhancing the terrific tracks but doing little to help the poorly-written moments of the album. Scheepers’s shrieking makes “Metal is Forever” the anthem it was meant to be, and deserves to be included as one of the band’s best songs because of it. Other songs also benefit by Scheepers’s singing throughout the many songs, along with the combination of Stefan Leibing and Tom Naumann crafting appropriate riffing and soloing. Combined with Ralf Scheepers’s sky-high vocals, they transform the good songs to great songs and the bad tracks to become not quite as bad; proving to be the tool that Primal Fear could rely on to save a poor release.
All in all, Primal Fear delivered a completely average LP. Beneath the high amounts of repetition and failed attempts of experimentation, the band crafts numerous extremely good songs that are some of the band’s absolute best. Songs like “Sacred Illusion,” “Metal is Forever,” and “Soulchaser” are highly recommended, yet only fans of Primal Fear’s material should check out the rest. For everyone else, just listen to this album’s follow-up, Seven Seals