German metal veterans Primal Fear return for another round, back at original home Nuclear Blast after a half dozen albums recorded for Italian label Frontiers Records, and it has to be said they are sounding as good as ever on Metal Commando.
This could be something to do with the fact that PF’s two most longstanding members, Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner, simply don’t appear to be subject to the same laws of ageing as the rest of us. Both put in vital performances here – Sinner as songwriting wellspring and producer, Scheepers as the inimitable voice of the band – with Scheepers in particular sounding as if the past twenty years simply never happened.
His vocal performance on the thirteen-minute epic that closes the album, Infinity, is quite simply a tour de force, a masterclass in metal delivery that few vocalists half the man’s age could hope to live with, let alone surpass. He’s not alone, however, as the band in toto pulls together wonderfully on this track, led from the back by some quite brilliant drumming from former Gamma Ray man Michael Ehré.
The rest of the album pales in comparison in terms of ambition – no other song on the album reaches the five minute mark, let alone thirteen – but that isn’t to say that the other tracks lack impact. Far from it, power metal gems like Howl of the Banshee and the Priest-like Along Came The Devil are likely to stove the back of your skull in on first impact, such is their immediacy, whilst slightly more sensitive material such as I Will Be Gone (which strangely reprises the refrain of Maroon 5‘s She Will Be Loved) and Hear Me Calling show that Sinner and company remain open to shovelling on huge serves of melody should the song require it. Whilst this album features some of Primal Fear’s heaviest material in a while, there’s not a whiff of ‘heavy-for-heavy’s-sake’ to be found anywhere.
Afterlife and Raise Your Fists are rattling good straight up headbangers, and this nice mix of metal ensures that as a listener you’re no going to get bored with Metal Commando in a hurry. I mentioned in my chat with Mat Sinner a few weeks back that this album was, in my not so humble opinion, the band’s best since 2001’s Nuclear Fire; with continued exposure to the album I see no reason to change that verdict, and if you’ve liked anything the band has come up with in the last twenty-odd years then this is going to find a comfortable berth in your record collection when it comes out later this month.
Metal Commando releases on July 24th.