Primal Fear never claimed to be innovators or trail blazers. They just want to rock their Judas Priest inspired, traditional metal shtick and write catchy, anthemic songs. They’ve been good at it too and certainly made a career of it, since Delivering the Black is album number ten for the Teutonic terrors. However, with their innate lack of innovative spirit, the risk of staleness becomes an ever-present stalking horse, and some of their discography has suffered it’s awful sting, sounding bland, tired and formulaic. 2012s Unbreakable was one of their better outings, loaded with juicy (and cheesy) odes to all things iron and chrome, and though it wasn’t original, it was too hooky to resist. Delivering the Black has all the same elements and when it works, the Metal Godz smile upon it lovingly. When it doesn’t, the stalking horse pounces. Still, after all this time these guys know their craft and continue to keep things fun, light, and heavy enough to please and while it isn’t among their best releases, it still delivers the goods (and the black too, I guess).
First the good. Tunes like “King for a Day,” “When Death Comes Knocking” and “One Night in December” deliver exactly what you want and expect from these guys. Simple, trve and memorable ditties that raise the metal fist, lower the boom, wax the ass and any regional cliché you care to add for local color. This is old-time metal at its most immediate and accessible. Ralf Scheepers continues to poke an angry thumb in the eye of anyone who thought Ripper Owens was the right man to replace Halford and generally tears things up with his air-raid-y, testosterone-y, muscle man antics. He’s supported by tried-and-true, old style riffing from Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt and the whole thing is basically a cross between Painkiller and Defenders of the Faith with some British Steel thrown in for metallic overkill.
Less killer, but still undeniably enjoyable are cuts like “Rebel Faction” with its Painkiller-levels of urgency; the Manowar-esque cheese taco of metal that is “Never Pray for Justice;” and the inevitably sappy power-ballad “Born With a Broken Heart.” The latter is painfully silly and utterly trite, but as with all Primal Fear ballads, if I let my guard down, I find myself swaying to and fro whilst holding high the Lighter of Steel.
The only song that truly chaffs my rubarb is “Road to Asylum,” which packs a (cheese)grating chorus that gets my dander up. “Inseminoid” doesn’t bowl me over either, but the energy it delivers gets it past my jaundiced eye.
Speaking of energy, the material on Delivering the Black is more laid back and mid-tempo than much of what Primal Fear has done and even solid numbers like “When Death Comes Knocking” feel like they could use an energy jolt. It doesn’t make a big difference on any individual song, but by the time the album wraps up, there’s a feeling it should have been more dynamic and ballsy as a whole.
As always, Mr. Scheepers delivers his “Halford on roids” vocals with enthusiasm and if there was ever a man who understood what his public expected, it’s him. Ball-straining high notes, rough-edged crooning, machismo-rich delivery – he does it all with conviction. The accompanying 80s flavored riffs owe their backstory to Accept, Saxon and of course, Priest, but there are flashes of Euro-power like Gamma Ray and Helloween mixed in as well (though less so than before) to keep the old school sound awake at the wheel. Karlsson is a gifted guitarist and writer and he’s proven it with this group, Allen/Lande and his own solo outing. I enjoy his riffing even when it’s exceptionally basic, and I love his solo-work which is so metal, it hurts.
Another platter of typical Primal Fare with a few tasty cuts to drop into my workout playlist. It didn’t hit me like their last outing did and I likely won’t be returning to it as much, but it’s an easy, enjoyable listen. The AC/DC of Judas Priest worshippers are back and you know exactly what to expect. Act accordingly and metal on.