For a while back there, when Primal Fear prime mover Mat Sinner succumbed to a serious illness that saw him spending no less than eight months in eight different German hospitals, it looked like we might never hear from the great man or his plethora of projects ever again. But Stuttgart’s finest is made of tough stuff, and so thankfully here we are again ready to welcome the band’s fourteenth studio full-length, Code Red

… And what a corker Code Red is! Whatever they put in Sinner’s meds, it’s helped him turn out one of Primal Fear’s very best albums in a career that has seen quite a few top notch releases. A delicious mix of heads-down chug (opener Another Hero being a superb example of the subgenre, replete from a superb opening scream from the inestimable Ralf Scheepers), stately epics (Nordic-themed metal opera Their Gods Have Failed will be competing for best-in-show gongs come year end, I feel sure), chirpy, uplifting anthems (road-dog paean Play A Song will go down a storm live wherever it’s heard) and straight-up speed/power metal bangers (Cancel Culture is a raging piece of fiery modern metal that’ll have you twitching uncontrollably from second one), Primal Fear cover all the metal bases required for success in 2023 without once sounding perfunctory or forced.

Michael Ehré, last seen around these parts powering the remarkable new album from The Unity, is at it again here, steering the band with some quite remarkable drum work, but this is a true team performance as every member of the band – not least remarkably, of course, Sinner himself – pulls together to create pure metal glory like the Priestesque Steelmelter or closing classic Fearless. Wherever you press play there’s much to enjoy, and you can guarantee that one of Tom Naumann, Alex Beyrodt or Magnus Karlsson will be mangling your ears within seconds with their supreme six string symphonics…

And then there is Scheepers. So good this time around the band decided to crank him up in the mix just to underline the fact, he puts in a shift here that can only be described as heroic, underlining his reputation as one of European metal’s enduring greats behind the mic.

Considering that this time a year ago we might not have seen another PF album, the standard of Code Red is nothing short of miracle. Congratulations to all involved-  it’s great to have you back and melting steel again!

Code Red is out today (September 1st)