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Album Reviews : Primal Fear – Apocalypse

By on August 13, 2018

Primal Fear return with their twelfth studio album Apocalypse, another fine effort in carrying on in the long tradition of German speed/power metal bands. Their most recent effort combines the traditional metal stylings of Judas Priest with the soaring melodies of German power metal and the thrashy leanings of speed metal aggression. Opening track “Apocalypse” sets the stage well: a dramatic and atmospheric opening that showcases lovely guitar harmonies reminiscent of the famous ‘Hellion/Electric Eye’ opening to Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance.

The following track ‘New Rise’ carries on with a great opening riff that boosts the energy and the momentum. The vocals are strong and the main verse riff supports them well, leading into a very modern sounding pre-chorus reminiscent of bands like Kamelot. While the chorus vocal line and the solos are a tad uninspired, the heavy bridge provides a nice moment of contrast and the choir effects are cool if a tad cliché. ‘The Ritual’ follows up with another strong opening riff and a much stronger chorus that’s fairly heavy and showcases the speed metal side of the band’s musical equation. The lead guitar work is also much improved and provides a nice bright contrast against the darker vibe of the rest of the song. ‘King of Madness’ further differentiates the album’s sound with a clean chordal guitar riff that is very melodic and atmospheric and later develops into a solid distorted riff. Harsh vocals make their first appearance here and are used well.

‘Blood Sweat and Fear’ is another catchy opening riff and an especially catchy vocal melody in the bridge that makes a great counterpoint to the guitar riff. It was at this point I noticed the main issue I had with this album. Everything on the album is done well and is catchy, if not the most original sounding metal music that I’ve heard. Primal Fear isn’t reinventing the wheel with this album, yet they shine through in their ability to use contrast to create engaging songs and an overall fairly engaging album. ‘Contrast’ is certainly the theme for most of this album, and the songs are arranged in a way to provide something new right as you begin to feel that everything is getting samey.

‘The Supernova’ is a perfect example of this, easily the best song on the album and arriving at the perfect time when I felt that the originality was wearing thin. It opens with piano and strings leading to slow harmonised guitars – very cliché, and extremely effective. The verse in particular is a bit different from the norm and shows off the vocals amazingly, leading into a truly excellent chorus. The harmonised riff from the opening is developed well in the bridge and leads into a very well written solo. This is followed up with ‘Hail to the Fear’ and a bouncy lead guitar opening to bring the energy back. It feels very much like an anthem-song, and I’d imagine it sounds great live with crowd interaction. ‘Hounds of Justice’ provides a slow thrashy riff and a fantastic chorus full of the swagger expected from traditional metal. It’s a great song that would have been even more effective if the other songs on the album weren’t as so-so, or perhaps if it came earlier in the album. ‘The Beast’ has another dramatic intro and a very NWOBHM pedal tone riff. The chorus works well enough but is pretty cheesy, though I guess that’s expected from this style of metal.

The final two tracks represent something of a missed opportunity. ‘Eye of the Storm’ has a cool opening riff that loops back on itself well, even though it has a very similar opening to ‘The Beast’ (military snare and all). The verse recalls ‘The Supernova’ and the chorus is catchy but things are beginning to feel samey, especially given the length of the song. Overall this is fine though, and the repeated outro/chorus section gives a great sense of finality to this track that works as a closer for the whole album. Unfortunately, it isn’t the closer. ‘Cannonball’ closes out the album with a high energy opening that is straight to the point and blasts away the sombre feeling of the previous track. It’s a decent song that is undermined by some pretty ridiculous “harsh vocals” yelling ‘shoot, shoot’ in the chorus. This isn’t bad in itself, especially given that cheesy silliness is part of the fun with power/traditional metal, but it doesn’t really suit the album well. Perhaps if it swapped places with ‘Eye of the Storm’ it would work better; it provides a break between the two similar intros on tracks 9 and 10 and the dramatic atmosphere of ‘Eye’ works better as a closer than it does as a penultimate track.

Regardless, Apocalypse is a solid effort from an established band. If you’re after a blast of 80s traditional fun, this will serve you well, and the songwriting on show is worth anyone taking notes on. While cheesy German trad/power isn’t for everyone, songs like ‘Supernova’ are well worth the price of admission. Fans of this style will surely find lots to love, and aside from one or two questionable decisions, the album is strong.

Band: Primal Fear
Album: Apocalypse
Year: 2018
Genre: Power Metal
Label: Frontiers Music
Origin: Germany

About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.