Primal Fear – Metal Commando Review

Anthems, man. Big, beefy, brainless metal anthems. We all love em, and there are some bands born to churn em out. Primal Fear is at the front of that mob, throwing elbows and spilling cheap beer on posers. Unsurprisingly, lucky album 13, the cringe-inducing yet righteously titled Metal Commando┬áis another big ball o’ metal anthems. Fat anthems. Thin anthems. Heavy anthems. Mellow Anthems. It’s like a frigging Olympic metal ceremony around this place what with all the antheming going on. At this point in their, “be more Judas Priest than Judas Priest” career arc, you know exactly what’s coming at you here, and as usual the band fronted by Mr. Ralf Scheepers (he who auditioned for the Priest gig only to lose out to Ripper for inexplicable reasons), grab you by the tattered Slayer shirt and shake you with heavy metal thunder. As a fan of their past works, I’m the ideal demographic for their brand of metallurgy, so let’s test its purity.

You get sucker punched by one of the best cuts on opener ” I Am Alive,” which is as indicative of the Primal Fear formula as anything they’ve ever done. It’s all meaty, thick riffing, thunderous drumming and the Halford-esque vocals of Mr. Scheepers front and center. The crucial “fist in the air” vibe is present and there’s a chorus catchy enough to get you singing along. It’s metal as metal should be and all is right in the world. The band keeps the good stuff flowing with punchy, tightly written cuts like “Along Came the Devil” and “Halo,” and even the mellower “Hear Me Calling” lands comfortably in the anthem zone with a memorable chorus.

The heaviness of many of the tracks is quite welcome, giving the album a Painkiller-esque energy and heft. Cuts like “The Lost and the Forgotten,” “Raise Your Fists” (yes, yes, I know), and “Howl of the Banshee” are made for gym playlists and brew chug-o-thons with your most neanderthal of friends, and there’s always a place for such material at the Rancho de Steel. That said, there are some unforced errors as the Commando mission unfolds. Super-mega 80s power ballad “I Will Be Gone” is way too much like something off Skid Row‘s debut and I keep waiting for Ralf to wail “Ricky was a young boy.” It’s too much hair spray with too many lighters out to fit on such a testosterone-drenched metal fest, and it’s too cloying for my blood sugar levels. Another weak spot is 13 minute closer “Infinity.” While it’s a fine song at its core with a suitably huge chorus, there’s no good reason it should run 13 minutes when it’s really just a solid 6 minute tune with a buttload of padding, It’s also unintentionally hilarious when Ralf gravely intones “demons are touching me” several times at key moments.

At a chunky 57 minutes, Metal Commando is a bit on the long side as well, and cutting a few lesser numbers would make for a tighter listen. That being said, this is another in a long line of reliable classic metal releases by a band that can do this shit in their sleep. As usual I’m a fan of the classic riff-work by the trio of guitarists on hand and I’m still confused as to why they need 3 guitarists for the meat n’ taters metal they specialize in. Overcrowded with fret-boards as they may be, you do get plenty of nicely burly riffs and some outstanding solo-work from the six-string gaggle. The star of the show has been and always will be the pipes of Scheepers. He’s been a force in metal since his early days with Gamma Ray and he’s still got the power to deliver the glory. He no longer tries to mimic Rob Halford as he did on the early albums, but he’s still an obvious alum of the Halford Wailing Academy. He’s one of the most dependable singers in classic metal though, and he does a fine job here as always.

Metal Commando is another entertaining experiment in simple, classic metal that gets slightly hamstrung by minor gaffs. It’s not their best album, nor is it their worst. Flaws and all it’s still full of well executed, easy to digest material with hooks and innate charisma. If you still salute the banner of classic metal, join Primal Fear in the metal commandos. The struggle is eternal and the beers are cheap(ER).

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 24th, 2020

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