It’s been 21 years since a blonde hard rock dude joined forces with a gigantic curly haired (sadly, now bald) vocal powerhouse to form one of the most iconic bands in the 90s power metal scene. Mat Sinner (bass, Sinner) Ralf Scheepers (vocals, ex-Gamma Ray, ex-Tyran’s Pace) delivered the goods right from the start with the amazing Priest-like homonymous debut album, and managed to consolidate themselves as one of the great bands of the heavy/power circle in Europe; being the consumer of German metal at unhealthy amounts that I am, I boarded the ship right from the start, so every riff, screams and different cover eagles have been analyzed and celebrated by me.
‘Apocalypse’ is album number twelve in the Teutonic metallers careers, and second one to feature three guitarists, which I think is exaggerated, in longtime member Tom Naumann, mastermind Magnus Karlsson and the equally great Alex Beyrodt, with drummer Francesco Jovino completing the lineup.
After the symphonic and…well, apocalyptic intro, already a registered mark of the band, the album kicks in with the mind-blowing “New Rise”. The sense of urgency, the double-pedals destroying everything, Scheeper’s masterful high screams…it’s all here, and it’s the best start possible to an album; one of the best songs ever released by Primal Fear.
The terminal velocity and the classic power metal song structure, though, are exclusive to the first track, as can clearly be seen with follow-up “The Ritual”, as well as in “The Beast”. The band has reached a point where songs like “Formula One”, “Chainbreaker”, “Angel in Black” and “Black Sun” will become rarer by the day, and tracks such as this one – slower and heavier, even modern at times – are the new game. The distorted guitar du… trio (I’ll never get used to this) and a louder bass by Sinner dictate the rhythm of such tracks, which is fine for grabbing some new followers to the Fear ranks.
As it is with every PF album since ‘Seven Seals’ (2005), the symphonic elements combined with a semi-ballad songwriting are more present than ever here, as “King of Madness” and “Supernova” show the theatrical and melodic side of Scheepers, which delivers ace performance during both, especially in the choruses; beware of the amount of sugar and cheesiness in the two songs, though, even more so in the latter, where the Germans show their epic side as well. “Eye of the Storm” follows the same path, but borrows elements from Scheeper’s Tyran Pace era by being more direct and smooth if compared to its peers above.
“Blood, Sweat & Fear”, “Hail to the Fear” and closer “Cannonball” have the Primal Fear scent all over them, and are safely played like so. While the first punches its way into your brain with sexy riffs and that “in your face” rock ‘n’ roll attitude, the second features some moments of virtuosity by the guitar team, more prominently by Karlsson. Oh, and “Cannonball” is just a good song to end an album, nothing more to it; just plain and simple heavy metal the way it’s supposed to be.
But hey, I told you above that I’d get back to that sorry excuse for a song called “Hounds of Justice”, right? Well, this is so disparate from the rest of the record that I genuinely hoped they’d leave this behind. The leads are generic, the lyrics are laughable and I’ll not even mention the annoying chorus that flirts with metalcore.
To sum it up, ‘Apocalypse’ is yet another quality release from the masters of the Teutonic heavy/power. As a fan since their first album, though, I’m always hoping to see more speed and power in their songs like they did with “New Rise”, but 1/11 just doesn’t make the cut for me, so the old timers will have to grow accustomed to this new Primal Fear. It’s a step above ‘Rulebreaker’ (2015), so it’s nice to see the band soaring as high as ever, and the fact that the train-wreck “Hounds of Justice” is an isolated case makes things even better. So buckle up and fly once more with the eagle towards the beautiful realm of German heavy metal, because it never disappoints