Sometimes a title is all you need. And, as it unleashes a victorious scream of power metal majesty heard three townships away, Metal Commando (Nuclear Blast Records), the latest album from Primal Fear, is absolutely one of those titles.
Ruled over with an iron fist by an alliance of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Dio, the land of Primal Fear exists only in the 1980s. Ozzy still wears dresses, Derek Riggs still draws Maiden’s album art, denim and leather is the uniform, and the ’90s are but a campfire story to scare children into only listening to the truest of metal. Anyone found practising the unholy rituals of Nu Metal and Grunge is cast immediately from the Utopian society, banished to roam a post-apocalyptic wasteland probably drawn by Edward Repka or Ken Kelly.
In the world of the Metal Commando, the eagle is the sigil and the riff is the king, so what better way to start than the rousing call to arms of ‘I Am Alive’. Arguably the band’s fieriest opening track for many a year, Ralf Scheepers‘ strident vocals pierce the air with note-perfect precision. ‘Along Came the Devil’ arrives with a mid-paced Judas Priest chug, with Scheepers not only channelling the spirit of Rob Halford but knocking it unconscious and stealing its clothes. The simple chorus guaranteed to get heads bobbing and fists in the air even though it’s all been heard a million times before.
The high-speed wallop of ‘Halo’ features a gnawingly familiar but still satisfyingly uplifting chorus, ‘Hear Me Calling’ spins its wheels a little but is saved by another strong chorus, while the militaristic, Accept meets Rammstein combo of ‘The Lost & The Forgotten’ is sure to be a crowd-pleaser once the band can actually play in front of crowds again.
‘My Name is Fear’ is all biceps and steel but strictly by-the-numbers Primal Fear, and the ballad ‘I Will Be Gone’ wastes Scheepers’ immense talents on a completely forgettable ballad. However, things perk up with the magnificent ‘Raise Your Fists’, a golden nugget of purest Saxon, and ‘Howl of the Banshee’ which continues in the same vein but with a distinctly Helloween chorus. Penultimate track ‘Afterlife’ is another thumping tune, but at over thirteen minutes long, ambitious closer ‘Infinity’ occasionally feels rather too appropriately named.
Offering no surprises, Metal Commando is simply Germanic power metal at its best. Soaring vocals, piercing screams, a massive rhythm section, and riffs that could level cities.
7 / 10