Delivering The Black
Delivering The Black
All-guns-blazing, Priest-style metal
If you're a fan of traditional, all-guns-blazing, Priest-style metal, this is a pretty fine way to start the year. Assuming you're familiar with the previous works of German metal merchants Primal Fear, you should pretty much know already if this release is for you. If you're looking for the next album that will redefine the boundaries of heavy metal, this ain't it. But for sheer old-school metal power and glory, it's hard to beat tracks like this album's opening duo of "King For A Day" and "Rebel Faction."
Personally, I've been watching Primal Fear's career since shortly after the band's eponymous 1998 debut album, and really became a full-on fan after seeing their first-ever U.S. gig in support of their third album, "Nuclear Fire" (and interviewing vocalist Ralf Scheepers for my college's radio station). The next album, "Black Sun," was even better, and "Devil's Ground" saw the band's songwriting abilities grow noticeably. After that, my interest waned somewhat, as I found subsequent releases varying somewhat in quality while not really offering any strong new ideas. The band's attempts at new directions during this period, in my opinion, often fell flat (glaring exceptions being mellower tracks like "In Memory" and "Fighting the Darkness"). Their 2009 release "16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)" was an improvement, despite its long-winded and cheesy title; a welcome bounce back in terms of both style and quality. If anything, that album seemed to prove that Primal Fear function best when they're not trying to reinvent the wheel, and certainly when they're not trying to sound "current." The next album, "Unbreakable," was decent but did not really make a lasting impression on me. "Delivering the Black" is basically more of the same, but scores a bit higher than "Unbreakable" in the songwriting department. If one cares to make distinctions like this between Primal Fear albums (which, let's face it, aren't all that different from one another at the end of the day), I'd say this one reminds me a bit of their second album, "Jaws of Death," in that it's polished, cleanly executed and metal to the core (of course) without going over the top in terms of speed and intensity like they would occasionally do starting with the "Nuclear Fire" album. (Remember "Back From Hell" anyone? None of that here. Only closing cut "Inseminoid" even comes close.)
One thing I have always liked about Primal Fear's albums is the dual lead guitar interplay. Unfortunately, Primal Fear's awesome two-guitar tandem has been fraught with personnel changes, particularly since "Black Sun." Thankfully, this album marks the second consecutive album for the pairing of Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt. Personally, I enjoyed the albums with the fleet-fingered Stefan Leibing (paired with either Tom Naumann or Henny Wolter) the best, although all of their albums feature stunning solos, and "Delivering the Black" is no exception. Personally, I don't find the solos on this album to be quite as memorable as on some of their past albums. (I mean, there's nothing like the unforgettable, jaw-dropping "Nuclear Fire" solo section, the "Hotel California" of Primal Fear lead breaks.) But if you want technically flawless solo tradeoffs, there are still plenty of them on this album, especially on the epic "One Night in December"- a song which approaches ten minutes in length! So basically, this album is Primal Fear as trad metal songsmiths, not Primal Fear as guitar-flaunting, borderline-speed metal maniacs. So, like I said, if you've heard them before, and you have even the foggiest idea what I'm rambling about, you should know by now whether or not you need this. Note: In addition to the usual CD, vinyl and digital download versions, "Delivering the Black" is available not only as a Deluxe Edition (CD with bonus tracks, plus DVD with video clips and "making of" feature), but also a "Collectors Deluxe Edition" featuring all of the "Deluxe Edition" stuff, plus (gasp!)... a sculpture of the band's ever-present eagle mascot--made of metal, of course!
Delivering The Black
These Germans consistently receive support or criticism for maintaining the same essential sound since 1998. Singer Ralf Scheepers is the embodiment of the "Painkiller" Halford with his mid to high vocal range. Earlier in their career the group focused energy and efforts on solidifying German engineering to entice fans of Accept, Victory and Scorpions. That method worked, creating longevity and legacy through ten hard hitting records that placed the band on every shore. "Delivering The Black" is yet another testament of this band's dedication and work ethic. The group partnered with Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Mercenary) for the mix and master, a marriage that expands their traditional offering. Under Hansen's treatment there is more emphasis on a faster rhythm that triggers double bass. As always Scheepers is in top form but this mix reduces his vocals slightly in the mix to allow more clarity from the band. This formula is most evident on "Rebel Faction", a track that utilizes triggered double bass similar to some extreme acts. Another highlight is lead single "When Death Comes Knocking" with its effective '80s like hook. "Road To Asylum" and "Delivering The Black" are quicker and lean heavily on frequent power metal strokes. The song selection, production and continued support from Frontiers are contributing factors to the success of this record. Building on that momentum is a worldwide tour that will include a rare jaunt in North America.
Note - The deluxe edition provides three bonus songs and a DVD. The Japanese edition gives you four bonus tracks.