By Carl Begai
Reviewing a power metal band is no more rocket scientific than the music itself. Babble on about divine guitar shred, godlike vocals, throw around terms like “old school” and “traditional” and you’re done. And while this formula has been applied to Primal Fear in the past, to do so in discussing their new outing, Delivering The Black, would be a huge disservice to the band and the fans. Primal Fear is one of those rare acts that, 10 studio albums into their career, are more vital and vibrant than they were at the beginning, and anyone that’s been following them since 1998 will have one hell of a time arguing the point in 2014. Picking up where Unbreakable (2012) left off and leaving said record choking in the dust, Delivering The Black is a brilliant energetic romp through familiar territory on a level that will make it a go-to classic of the genre 20 years from now.
Delivering The Black grabs hold immediately with ‘King For A Day’, seals the deal with ‘Rebel Faction’, and digs its claws so damn deep it’s a shock, especially if you’re expecting ho-hum power metal-isms. The guitar riffs are huge at the hands of Magnus Karlsson, Alex Beyrodt and founder/producer/bassist Mat Sinner, while drummer Randy Black delivers some of the best steel backbone work of his career (‘King For A Day’, ‘Inseminoid’, ‘Rebel Faction’, ‘Delivering The Black’). As for vocalist Ralf Scheepers…. pffffff… the man has come a LONG way since his days with Gamma Ray and Primal Fear’s early albums. He still has one of the best high-pitched shrieks this side of Tim “Ripper Owens, Rob Halford and Kai Hansen, and his low-end voice now boasts grit, balls and character that sets him well apart from his aforementioned peers. Fact is it’s hard to pick Scheepers’ crowning moment on Delivering The Black because there are so damn many of ’em (although ‘Rebel Faction’ is probably the best track to sum up his overall performance).
Ultimately, Delivering The Black succeeds on the chemistry between band members and their studio crew (Jacob Hansen – mixing, Achim Köhler – engineer). With the exception of ‘Never Pray for Justice’, which falls surprisingly flat, every song on the record has it’s own little “in-your-face” life. Even the anthem ‘When Death Comes Knocking’ – which is very reminiscent of early Stratovarius – comes with an attitude, and ‘One Night In December’ is so damn catchy thanks to some huge melodies (remember ‘Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove’?) you don’t realize it clocks in at over nine minutes.
Call me impressed, definitely call me surprised. I haven’t enjoyed a Primal Fear this much since Nuclear Fire, released way back in 2001.
The tracklist is as follows:
‘King For A Day’
‘When Death Comes Knocking’
‘Alive & On Fire’
‘Delivering The Black’
‘Road To Asylum’
‘One Night In December’
‘Never Pray For Justice’
‘Born With A Broken Heart’ (featuring Liv Kristine)
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