Company: Frontiers Records Release: 2009 Genre: Hard rock, Power Reviewer: Raising Iron
Well below their true capabilities
Alright, if there are any Primal Fear fans left still holding out hope for a return to the bands' sound of their glory years, i.e., S/T to Black Sun, give it up, it aint happenin', you'd have a better chance seeing the Detroit Lions go 16-0 this year. The men have just dropped their latest, entitled 16.6 (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and its even more saccharin than their last effort (New Religion). This really shouldn't come as any surprise though, as the band hinted at this around the time of Devil's Ground, and since have slowly progressed into a melodic/rock/metal machine with only a mere residue of the guys' former heaviness staining the affair.
Like their last couple of records, there are moments of heaviness, the title track being slated for the stage, as it's the strongest track on the disc and rests in old school nuances, something that can't be said for any of the other tracks, save for maybe "The Exorcist", and that's a bit of a reach. The rest of the songs are the typical, mid-tempo, highly melodic, hard rockers with catchy choruses like those found on the last effort. Another thing, Mr. Scheepers doesn't unleash any of his usual blood-curdling screams; everything being sung in a mid-register tenor, which after all is what these songs demand, but we certainly miss the air-siren Ralf! It may seem as if primary songwriter Mat Sinner can't keep his namesake band's style from creeping into the Primal Fear contraption, but its more probable that the guys simply like what they're doing; well, that and the fact they're running out of inspiration and determination; things are just too damn formulaic – even the cheesy lyrics are in place (see Smith & Wesson).
So, what's wrong with the picture here? Several of these songs would be lauded had they been written by a different band, but we're talking Primal Fear here, a group who has displayed savvy for the well-crafted (and heavy!) song time and again in the past; but frankly they are writing well below their true capabilities right now, versus many other bands who would find this type of stuff to be the pinnacle of their songwriting creativity. Having said all that, if you're new to the band and a fan of simpleton, hard rock structured songs with singable choruses, this'll be right up your alley. As for the rest of us, the proper sub-title to the record should've been, Before the Fans Know We're Dead! Wait, scratch that, we've known for a while now.
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