It seems like ten years with one label is a common trigger for a ‘best of’ album, and now it’s the turn of Primal Fear, a band that creates traditional heavy metal with aplomb. The band has been going for 20 years now, apparently formed after lead singer, Ralph Sheepers, didn’t get the job to replace Rob Halford in Judas Priest. He certainly has the pipes for it, and comparisons with Priest abounded in the early years, but they were really mostly lazy, based on his vocal abilities and not on any lack of an original sound within the band.
That sound has always formed three basic streams. First, songs like Seven Seals (not in this set, as it was while they were on Nuclear Blast), that is, heavy ballads that make the most of Sheepers vocal abilities and the abilities of the band, faster tracks that have a groove to them, such as The End Is Near (included in this set) and more straightforward heavy tracks like In Metal We Trust (also here). The promotional materials state there’s four new tracks on this double CD, but sadly this is not strictly true. First track, Area 16, is more of an instrumental segue, along the lines of The Hellion. Of the three tracks that remain, the first two are in the groove category and the last is more straight up driving heavy metal. Predator boasts a pretty cool harmony section and is pretty much what you expect from a Primal Fear track. If Looks Could Kill may well be the most commercial song this band has ever created, sounding almost like Skid Row. Thrill of Speed is a bit faster, a little commercial, but still within the realms of classic Primal Fear.
On the first CD, When Death Comes Knocking is the only ‘ballad’ type song. The rest are pretty evenly split between the two styles the band work within. This first CD is presented as being ‘heavier and more straight ahead’, which is true. This is straightforward heavy metal.
The second CD is promoted as ‘more involved and showcasing the epic side of the band’. What this translates to, is a CD full of heavy ballads. There’s three tracks over eight minutes long, and a lot of orchestral work in some of the earlier tracks. There’s a couple of duets, with Simone Simons (from Epica) on Every Time It Rains, and with Liv Kristene (ex Leaves Eyes) on Born with a Broken Heart. Ultimately, this second CD is full of slower, epic songs. Despite the blurb, it seems like sometimes the slower songs are ‘heavier’, because they slow down and then they crush when the heavy guitars kick in. There are certainly fans of Primal Fear who would say they are at their best on tracks like this.
These sorts of albums always end up blurring the lines of who their market is. The fact they’ve changed labels limits the scope of this best of, and while they continue to make great music, and release strong albums, any committed fan could list songs that deserve to be on a best of and are not here. So, if you’re after new Primal Fear, in the age of You Tube, you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to pay for a double CD to hear three new songs. Of course, if you’re new to the band, the songs are all new to you, and this is a great introduction. Perhaps the people most likely to buy this are people old enough to still play CDs in their cars, and looking for these songs together instead of over several CDs. The second CD in particular is incredibly strong for anyone who loves this aspect of Primal Fear, full of epic songs that showcase all the strengths of these heavy metal stalwarts, with not a skippable track in there. If this CD comes out at the price of a single CD, then the second disc, more than the new tracks, justifies the cost of purchase on it’s own
The Best Of Fear is out November 10th via Frontier’s Music and you can pre-order it HERE!