Ralf Scheepers had a few difficulties before the creation of Primal Fear. After leaving Gamma Ray in 1993, he planned to audition for the role of vocalist for Judas Priest, to earn a place in his favorite band. Unfortunately, he lost the audition to Tim Owens, and would have to go elsewhere for his musical career to continue. Scheepers, still having thoughts of creating a Judas Priest album, decided to take matters into his own hands with the birth of the band Primal Fear in 1997. One year later, the band released their self-titled debut that combined the sound of Judas Priest with aggressive power metal; and made a decent, if unremarkable, foothold among other power metal bands.
This mix of power metal and Judas Priest is extremely evident throughout the release, though a few songs perfectly emphasize the combination in different ways. “Chainbreaker” works as a fantastic introduction to Primal Fear to many, containing much of the tasteful performances and catchy songwriting to expect from the band. Heavy and fast riffing, drumming, and bass playing all appear throughout “Chainbreaker,” along with Scheepers’s Halford-like screech from start to finish. Though the material may not be very unique or creative compared to many of the band’s own contemporaries in the genre, the song defines that the band will bring great performances with heavy and fun power metal; succeeding as a fun listen. Other fast paced and bombastic tracks like “Silver and Gold” and “Battalions of Hate“ continue in a similar style throughout the album; reflecting the better parts of both Judas Priest and power metal’s repertoire.
That said, the album does contain the other side of the coin for the power metal aspect of their sound. The occasional filler present in this source pervades the entire release, as some songs from this album are fairly unimaginative and are extremely generic power metal tracks. One example of this is the lackluster “Dollars,“ which feels largely uninspired, forced, and boring in comparison to some of the stronger and more memorable material. Compared to a “Silver and Gold,” or even a “Promised Land,” the song is relatively boring and forgettable power metal; though other tracks fault in the very same ways. “Formula One” is another example of worse songwriting, being completely forgettable and a true example of what would later be known as typical Primal Fear filler. Outside of these issues, the album begins to stagnate as it continues; due to similar sounding songs throughout the whole album. As it goes on, listeners will wonder if they had already heard the song that is playing, and may not like the high repetition of this album.
Fortunately, Primal Fear does pull a few surprises on this album, such as the lengthier “Tears of Rage.” It is two minutes longer than almost every track on this LP, and tries something new among the numerous similar-sounding songs. The song uses synthesizers and Ralf Scheepers’s singing throughout the song to carry it, being one of the first longer and ballad-like songs that the band would compose. Though this song may drag on for a little long, it is a memorable song due to its melodic and enjoyable writing that shows a surprising second dimension to this release. Compared to much of the release, the song brings something new to the table and is not overtly redundant; a problem that the album, and band, often struggles against.
Containing creative writing on both faster and slower songs, Primal Fear manages to deliver an unoriginal yet enjoyable debut. Though the band’s love for Judas Priest cannot be ignored, they manage to create numerous noteworthy songs among the filler and repetition of this release. While Ralf Scheepers did not earn the job as singer of Judas Priest, this album demonstrated that it was the beginning of something even better for this man, and heavy metal, as a whole.