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Primal Fear - 16.6 4.5/5

Reviewed: 6-12-09


1. Before the Devil knows you're dead
2. Riding the eagle
3. Six times dead (16.6)
4. Black rain
5. Under the radar
6. 5.0/Torn
7. Soar
8. Killbound
9. No smoke without fire
10. Night after night
11. Smith & Wesson
12. The exorcist
13. Hands of time

Germany’s own Primal Fear, one of the bigger and well known power metal bands, holds us in anticipation with their newest serving of ferocious European power metal; entitled ‘16.6' (Before the devil knows you’re dead). This new CD will be Primal Fear’s 8th full-length release, and their 2nd with Frontiers Records. ‘16.6’ also marks the first release with new guitarist Magnus Karlsson (Allen/Lande, ex-Last Tribe), after long-time guitarist with the band, Stefan Leibing decided that it was his time to move on. Leibing had been with Primal Fear since their 2nd CD, ‘Jaws of death’.

The first subtle signs of the band’s reinvention occurred with 2004’s ‘Devil’s ground’, while further progression covered 2005’s ‘Seven seals’. Experimentation on a few tracks came into play on that CD, while more tentative changes occurred again with 2007’s ‘New religion’, including combining female vocals with Ralf Scheepers on one track; and a few more experimental tracks, some of which missed the mark. Although most fans felt that ‘New religion’ was the band's first slip in quality and inspiration, the release ultimately received mixed reviews. It seemed that the band wanted to sound more chiseled, well-rounded, mature, emotional and in-depth; seeking to get out from underneath the “Judas Priest clone-band” label which some fragments of the metal media had pinned on them.

So now, the latest Primal Fear release has arrived and many will be asking the question; will they return to their early 2000’s glory, or will ‘16.6’ continue the band’s current musical trend of recent years? Primal Fear may not have gotten the balance right between their direction of progression and old-school on ‘New religion’, but they damn sure have on the new CD, ‘16.6’. This time round, the German Metal Commandos have got it right, with an excellent blend of current progression into what they want to be; and their classic old-school sound. This CD sounds and feels like the band were much more confident and sure of themselves with this material, than they were with the last release.

A dark intro starts things off, building up to the opening track “Riding the eagle”. The track is a great Primal Fear opener, speedy and melodic, with a catchy chorus. Ralf sounds stronger than ever as he charismatically belts out the tunes. In fact, throughout the whole CD, Ralf never breaks out the insanely high-pitched shrieks (a la “Sign of fear” style), seemingly more comfortable to sing at his mid-high-pitched vocals for the majority of the release. Ralf also sings with a lot more melody and conviction on ‘16.6’, putting to rest any rumours that his voice may be faulting after all these years behind the mic.

Primal Fear rip out some awesome old-school sounding tracks, including “Killbound”, which could have slotted in perfectly on Primal Fear’s debut release. “Smith and Wesson” is another classic sounding track, but with an obvious Sinner influence; while “The exorcist” is a ripping old-school balls-to-the-wall track, full of power and speed and is easily one of the best on the CD. “Soar” is an interesting and quite peculiar track. Aside from being very good and catchy, it also contains portions of industrial metal guitar riffs, similar in sound to bands like The Tea Party and Korn.

“Six times dead” is another brilliant track on ‘16.6’, containing a super-charged heavy stomping beat and riff which just keeps your head banging for the entire song. The semi-power ballad “No smoke without fire” is another standout, quite emotional, strong and sung very well by Scheepers. Lastly, another experimental track, “Black rain” is quite epic and sophisticated, while the CD closer, “Hands of time” is another soulful ballad, with the vocals being shared by 4 members of the band.

From the beginning of ‘16.6’ to the end, it is obvious that Primal Fear have now confidently found their sound and structure that they have been working on for the last few releases. In an excellent return to form, every track is forceful, meaningful and wonderfully constructed; blending the best of classic Primal Fear with the arrangements and insights of their current progression. This release may have been a few CDs in the making, but it is all definitely worth the wait. ‘16.6’ is not another ‘Nuclear fire’, ‘Black sun’ or ‘Jaws of death’, and neither should it be as the band has moved on and improved from that era.

All Primal Fears fans should go out and get this without hesitation; while power/traditional metal fans will also thoroughly enjoy what ‘16.6’ has to offer.




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