REVIEW: PRIMAL FEAR – Rulebreaker
January 2016 brings some fierce competition to the power metal world with A-list releases from Rhapsody of Fire and Avantasia (just to name a couple) but yet another highly anticipated release for the genre comes from German speed/power metal legends Primal Fear. After leaving Gamma Ray in the late nineties, vocalist Ralf Scheepers formed this powerhouse with bassist Mat Sinner, and guitarist Tom Naumann. Since then, some members have come and gone, but currently the original trio is joined by Alex Beyrodt (guitar), Magnus Karlsson (guitar/keyboards), and the newest addition of Francesco Jovino, who joined on drums in 2015. ‘Rulebreaker’ is the band’s eleventh full length studio album, following up to the masterpiece (in my humble opinion) from 2014, ‘Delivering the Black’.
Right off the bat, let’s be honest, the title alone is a little lackluster. ‘Rulebreaker’ sounds like an album title I would have released in my rebellious high school years. The first track even, “Angels of Mercy” left me feeling the same way. Don’t get me wrong, it is in true Primal Fear fashion with Scheepers’ falsettos and heavy guitar riffs galore, but the lyrics and the chorus don’t sell the album for me, especially as an album opener. The album gets much more exciting thanks to tracks like “The End is Near” and “Bullets & Tears” which also happens to be the album’s first single. The title track “Rulebreaker” is a more mid-tempo rock and roll type tune, and I really dig the music but if I were to truly do my job here and be critical of the music, the lyrics are quite cheesy. However, cheesy doesn’t make it bad. It seems to be an “I may be old but I still kick ass” message, and I can totally get behind that considering this band’s history.
It wouldn’t be a Primal Fear release without an anthem about how awesome metal is. “In Metal We Trust” is a great heavy tune, and I am sure the message of the song is quite clear. As one of the hardest hitting tracks on the release, it is full of great guitar riffing, drums, and high soaring vocal lines from one of the most talented vocalists in the industry. Of course, immediately after the release takes a drastic turn into “We Walk Without Fear”. This track is truly flawless, sitting at just under eleven minutes, beginning with a dramatic build up into this dark and heavy masterpiece. If the entire album could sound like this song, I would be seriously asking if I had died and gone to heaven. Even just the intro’s guitar melodies… I seriously can’t get enough. The track slows down, however, and shows off Scheepers’ mid-range vocals which are my absolute favorite. The lyrics, the added keyboard elements, the heavy bass guitar presence – everything is perfection. Hey Primal Fear… If you guys are reading this… please do more of this!
The album continues peaking my interest with some pretty straight forward tunes, and I’d expect no less from the band. A couple more of my favorites are “Constant Heart” and “The Sky is Burning” which has an extremely catchy chorus that still sticks with me hours after I listen to it. You know, I’ve said it many times before, Primal Fear is entirely too underrated. While they aren’t super technical or diverse release after release, they continue to put out solid melodic heavy metal records, showing off the talents of all musicians perfectly – ‘Rulebreaker’ is no exception.
With every release my respect for them grows, and I always question about why I don’t hear about them talked about more often. I am going to change that, and I think with this release, you will too! Check out this release, and keep an eye out for the band on tour this year with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody in North America.