posted on 2/2004 By:
There are singers who surprise you by being amazingly small but belting out a huge amount of sound, like Ronnie James Dio (Dio) and Glen Danzig (The Misfits, Danzig). Then there are singers who are so absurdly huge, you expect them to destroy you with a brutal attack of aural aggression, such as Chuck Billy (Testament) and Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth). Ralf Scheepers – former singer of Gamma Ray and current Primal Fear vocalist – is a mutant hybrid of both these styles. He’s a behemoth, but the sounds coming out of him would make Rob Halford bow in acknowledgement. Love him or hate him, the man is an incredible vocalist, and probably the sole deciding factor as to whether or not you will get this latest album, Devil’s Ground.
This baby starts off in pure super-cheese style, with Scheepers belting out “METAL IS FOREVER” in a song of the same title. It’s completely over the top, glorious, and horrible all at once. The fact that it’s ABOUT METAL really gets on my nerves, as there are so many other topics to sing about other than the type of music you’re playing. Track two has a great sing-along chorus, the aptly titled “Suicide and Mania”. A couple of non-memorable tracks elapse and we arrive at “The Healer”. This is Primal Fear’s version of a ballad, not a weak, pussy-whipped bullshit serenade, but a gripping soul searching track. Violins are present, with a nice, driving chorus and some extremely Halford-like vocals.
Next comes another rant, and the thing that bothered me about this album when comparing it to Black Sun. It involves the song “In Metal”, along with “Metal is Forever”. Why in god’s name do metal bands have to sing about metal? If you were truly metal, you wouldn’t even have to proclaim your metalness, nor would you even have to mention it. One should exude metal from every pore. This is the problem I had with the album. Black Sun was a concept album, so it gave the band something to talk about. Now that Devil’s Ground is more open to different topics, it seems as if they have nothing to talk about so they grab the old “sing about metal” crutch that is all too prominent in today’s power/classic metal community. It just gets on my nerves.
Back to the matter at hand, my favorite track on the album was “Colony 13”. It has a killer chorus; the riffs are great as well. I don’t want to overdo the Judas Priest comparisons here, but they just keep coming up! It’s got sort of an “Electric Eye” feel to it; a short but sweet shredder. A few tracks later, the album closes out with an ultra eerie spoken word piece about the end of the world or something of that nature.
I’ve put a good 5 listens into this album, and I can honestly say that it’s not as good as Black Sun. While there are a handful of good tracks on here, there were no standouts like “Armageddon” from Black Sun. Scheepers’ vocals are still absolutely top notch, but those of you who for some reason hated him are still going to hate him. With the myriads of crappy power metal in this day and age, Devil’s Ground is a nice return to what makes the genre good, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. I say give it a try, I conclude that it’s worth your time.
Colony 13 - Cool chorus, ultra Priest comparisons here
Suicide and Mania - Has a great, early-eighties feel to it
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