Primal Fear_RulebreakerJust last week we covered Manimal and their crusade to recreate Judas Priest‘s Painkiller for the umpteenth time. Now Primal Fear magically appears as if summoned from some classic metal purgatory to defend their title of Lead Priest Imitator Supreme. Yes, it’s true, Primal Fear forged a long and semi-storied career by aping the better angels of the Priest catalog. It’s probably no coincidence the band came to life shortly after frontman Ralf Scheepers was denied the chance to replace Rob Halford in that legendary metal troupe. The extensive use of metallic eagles on their album covers may be another hint if you’re not buying the conspiracy theory. Anywho, Rulebreaker (because “Jawbreaker” was taken) is their 11th album and guess what? It sounds like vintage Priest again, albeit mixed with a goodly portion of tasty Accept-isms. And much like the typical Primal platter, it’s brainless but ultimately fun and catchy metal fare draped with nostalgia and drenched in cliche. Hey, they wouldn’t still be writing albums if no one was buying what they were cooking, and I’m not too proud to admit I eat this stuff for breakfast, brunch and dinner. Let them eat old school metal, I say.

As always, the writing is kept simple, metal and geared toward involuntarily horn raising. Take a song like “The End is Near” – it’s got the most basic of metal riffs backing Scheepers as he screams, rasps and rages against the dying of the light, but lo and behold, the song is addictive and enjoyable as hell. “Bullets and Tears” is a tad more anthemic and melodic but still rocking, with a big chorus and Scheepers’ helpful warnings to avoid “flames and asses.” The title track is simplistic and dumb but so damn hooky you’ll secretly love it while publicly condemning it, and the ESL afflicted, testosterone-addled “Constant Heart” wins the coveted Painkiller Award with some scorching metal scorchery.

The band pushes themselves a bit with a nearly 11 minute epic titled “We Walk Without Fear,” which is surprisingly diverse and interesting with some nice crunch and nifty vocal hooks. The sweetest cherry comes with the obligatory power ballad “The Sky is Burning” and with a title like that, you know it’ll be big, overblown and more dramatic than a gaggle of teen goth chicks. Sure, it could pass for something off the Skid Row debut, but let’s not split hair metals here. It’s good stuff!

Primal Fear_2016

No duds raise their ugly heads, but “At War With the World” is somewhat generic and closer “Raving Mad” feels a little underwhelming, though it gets by on numbskull appeals to the early 80s.

Ralf Scheepers looks more jacked up than usual in the promo photos and video, and that carries over to his vocals, which are more angry and screamy this time. I mean that in the best possible way of course, as he frequently sounds like the mutant love child of Halford and Udo, and though science may be appalled at such a notion, metal fans should rejoice. He definitely delivers the goods and screams for vengeance on every song and impresses as always with his power and range (it still boggles my mind Priest picked Ripper over this guy). Songwriter-for-hire Magnus Karlsson and fellow axe Alex Beyrodt do a solid job with the guitar histrionics, walking the line between worshiping you-know-who and dabbling in Euro-power. I hear more Accept than usual in the riffs but the core sound is still intact and highly functional. The band is tight and they know this kind of stadium metal inside and out. They’ve somehow managed to keep album after album of the same material consistently entertaining and engaging, and they deserve major props for that.

Primal Fear may be a one-trick-priest, but it’s an enjoyable trick for old folks like me who still love that classic metal style. This is a stronger, more consistent album than 2014s Delivering the Black and even features some minor traces of innovation. I’m resigned to the fact I’ll buy whatever these Germanic metal mavens churn out and if you like your metal uncomplicated, meaty and catchy, you best do the same. At the very least they showed Manimal what’s what and protected their sacred turf for yet another year.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Frontiers Records
Websites:  |
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2016

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  • george

    Steel Druhm, i want to know if mat “the force” sinner is strong in this one.

    • He’s there and does his job, but like a good Jedi, he’s not showy.

      • george

        if it’s really better than “delivering”, i’m bying
        This is my case. Ralph is the best vocalist in european power/heavy metal. If not he, who?

  • “Breaking the ruuuules! Breaking the ruuuuules!”

    I dunno, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    • You and your post-modern anti-colonial snobbery.

      • Eh? No, that would be a very different critique…

        • Here’s Johnny

          All this talk of Priests makes me think you two are altar boys.

  • “He definitely delivers the goods and screams for vengeance on every song…”
    I have no idea about what you wrote from there on, Steel. Only looked at the words trying to find more Priest references.

    • sir_c

      You did not use the right point of entry

      • Kalsten

        You could say that he is breaking the law, almost.

    • I tried to be subtle and not ram it down.

      • sir_c

        But as usual you’re committing sin after sin

      • Most subtlety went overboard when you put Udo and ‘Love Child’ in one sentence.

  • El_Cuervo

    Will have to try this. I still spin Bad Guys Wear Black and Where Angels Die.

  • Kronos

    Rulebreaker indeed; that bird has a forked tongue, though the teeth I can forgive. Don’t these guys know anything about animals?

    • He’s a robot eagle. They can add whatever feature or app they want!

      • Actually I think that’s a robot chicken.

        • André Snyde Lopes

          A robot cock, perhaps?

    • Innit Bartender

      Birds descend from dinosaurs so they can have teeth too.

      • Kronos

        That’s why I forgave them. Forked focus on the other hand are a lepidosaur innovation.

        • Innit Bartender

          And eyebrows? That bird definitely has eyebrows. It hadn’t occurred to me until now.

          • Kronos

            Eyebrows aren’t uncommon in birds; some Cyranocorax Jays have pretty bushy ones.

          • Innit Bartender

            I submit to your superior knowledge of birds. Now if a Brit said this sentence, it would take a whole different meaning…

  • Diego Molero

    In first impression, I’m liking the Manimal’s record more

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      I agree.

  • Innit Bartender

    Come to AMG. See blurb of new Primal Fear. And Steel wrote it. OK, you can’t possibly think of skipping _that_.
    Not bad, and this guy me still listens to 16:6, whatever that meant.
    Also, not that many bands can sport symmetric Gibsons Les Pauls in their photos.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      16:6 is really good, still listening to it myself.

      • Innit Bartender

        It has a darkness that’s lacking from other albums, hasn’t it?

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Honestly, I’m not overly familiar with Primal Fear full-lengths outside of that one. From the tracks I’ve heard from the others though, I’m inclined to agree.

    • CarvedInStone

      It means Primal Fear. The 16th letter letter of the alphabet is P and the 6th letter is F.

      I was very underwhelmed when that album was released and I’m still not a fan of it.

  • Martin Knap

    With biceps of that size, I would worry about germs growing on it.

  • Lars Barres

    How long have these guys had three guitarists?

  • Here’s Johnny

    Pretty much spot on you old wank.

    Dependable, solid, and well written old school metal. Nothing more, nothing less but i love it anyway.

  • brutal_sushi

    How many times have you AMG readers jammed that embedded track? I’m slightly hesitant to say how many I have…

  • CarvedInStone

    I cannot for the life of my understand how you could rate this and the snoozefest that was “Unbreakable” higher than “Delivering The Black”.