Primal Fear
16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)

When it comes to contemporary Power Metal from Germany, Primal Fear seem to be an outfit that nearly every fan of the genre holds in great respect and keeps an eye on. Everything Mr. Sinner & Co have been bringing out since their highly-acclaimed self-titled debut is top-class, perfectly-crafted material. Even if you’re not too keen on groups like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian or Grave Digger, you are likely to still find something appealing about Primal Fear’s blend of Traditional Heavy/Speed/Power Metal. Never drastically deviating from their chosen path, the band hasn’t sounded exactly the same during all these years, though. Starting with 2005’s landmark masterpiece Seven Seals, the guys have been adding some variety to their strong Judas Priest influences by introducing progressive and symphonic touches, creating a broader sonic panorama that goes well beyond their earlier style.

Logically enough, the new album, called 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), treads pretty much the same musical ground as its two predecessors, Seven Seals and New Religion. However, the charming melodic arrangements, similar to those found on the previous albums, are quite frequently carved up with bolster and rawer infusions, recalling more of the pure aggression and energy of their earlier work such as Devil’s Ground in particular. A pretty winning combination if you ask me, as I really like the way they combine the old with the new on this latest release. Nevertheless, one should be quite an open-minded and seasoned listener to normally take the course of the album, since its more conventional numbers are set against some pretty extravagant tracks, such as a bit inappropriate yet nice AOR ballad “Hands Of Time” or the daring Modern Metal piece “Soar”. Unfortunately, I foresee some disappointment from those fans who would like the band to move along a less winding path.

Riff-wise, there are quite a few retrospective moments, implemented, nevertheless, with a strong sense of more contemporary embellishments. Thus, the riffs heard on “Six Times Dead” and “Killbound” are catchy and heavy as hell, though simplistic and clichéd they may seem at first listen. Likewise, some of the solos, such as the great neo-classical twin harmonies on “Riding The Eagle” and the short sparkling bits on “Smith And Wesson” are similarly mesmerizing. Actually, the latter track is my favourite on the album as it’s simply impossible to resist its overly optimistic mood and strong rhythms in spite of the overly cheesy lyrics. Once again, the guys couldn’t do without a few heavy ballads, of which “Black Rain” and “Smoke Without Fire” are especially good. While the former depicts exceptional equilibrium between the mellower and more aggressive/ faster parts, the latter is more even-tempered yet boasts a really great melody reminiscent of “Every Time It Rains” from their last album.

Also, it can’t be left out that the band’s lineup is now bolstered by another great name in metal, belonging to no one else but Magnus Karlsson, the brains behind the Allen/Lande project and the mastermind of such groups as Last Tribe, Starbreaker, and The Codex. I really hope he isn’t just another “passer-by”, for the band’s composing department would definitely win with his continued participation. I don’t know whether he just passively recorded his guitar parts composed by Matt and Ralf or had a hand in co-writing the new songs, but it seems like he did, as there are quite a few melodic touches throughout the album characteristic of his own, easily recognizable catchy style.

Perhaps Primal Fear aren’t capable of working miracles any more but they can still be a great starting point for any newcomers to the modern Power Metal genre. And their new album 16.6 is, without a doubt, recommended to anyone wanting to get to know this band. After all, this is high-quality German steel we are talking about, even though it tends to show some features borrowed from Scandinavian school. One way or the other, you will hardly regret investing your precious time and cash on it.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Igor Stakh
August 28th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Nice review bro!! I think this is an excellent continuation of their discography. A really great album!


  2. Commented by: MIke

    I think 16.6 is a pretty good album although in my opinion it is not as good as NEW RELIGION. I am one of those PF fans that wish they would go back to their not so over produced ways. If they rocked out another NUCLEAR FIRE I’d be stoked.


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