To be honest, I’ve been falling out of love with German metallers Primal Fear for a little while now. It may be a case of familiarity breeding contempt – Rulebreaker is their eleventh full-length outing of similar-sounding material in a career now stretching almost to the twenty year mark; Or maybe it’s the fact that the many bands that have offshot from PF – Voodoo Circle, Silent Force, Blackwelder etal – all seem to get the best songs from their respective members, or perhaps it’s a combination of things – whatever, they seem to have aligned to put Primal Fear distinctly on the nose with this reviewer at least for some while.
Still, when the editor asks you to take a review on you don’t turn him down, lest you get relegated to local band features or worse, think pieces… so here we are, with Rulebreaker – and I have to say it’s really rather good.
The metal mojo, wherever it went, is back, meaning that pulsating, throbbing tracks like Constant Heart leave the band sounding better than they have in a long, long time. Vocalist Ralf Scheepers in particular, seems reenergized, investing even more mundane tracks like In Metal We Trust and the title track with the sort of power and conviction their hackneyed themes and lyrics probably don’t deserve, in the process turning them into minor classics.
Elsewhere the guitars of Tom Naumann, Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt burn bright, even on obligatory ballad The Sky is Burning, wherein Scheepers makes his most telling contribution with a spine tingling exhibition of power, control and mesmerizing technique. This really is Euro metal in excelsis, something I haven’t really felt about this band since 2001’s Nuclear Fire.
Perhaps the big surprise is the eleven minute epic that forms Rulebreaker’s centrepiece, We Walk Without Fear. Comfortably the longest track Primal Fear has ever attempted, it sees Bassist Mat Sinner moving out of his power metal comfort zone as a song writer (at least partially) to deliver something very special indeed.
Raving Mad rounds things out as they started off – heads down, horns up, banging hard – to leave the listener glowing with excitement at the exhilarating journey they’ve just been taken on. For this reviewer at least, the ‘Fear is back!
Rulebreaker is out now on Frontiers Music