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Primal Fear has for many years now carried the German heavy metal flag forward, always releasing solid albums that has been good but never really reached for ‘very good’. They did change that a bit with last album “Seven Seals” though, it showed a little bit more variated side of the band and it’s the best album PF has done so far. They wanted it to be ‘big sounding’ and epic. While they didn’t succeed all the way, it was at least more epic than their albums before. But they were somewhat right, and the album showed a little bit more mature direction, and the music and songs was just better. I don’t know if they wanted “New Religion” to be a further step in the same direction as SS or not, but if it was their intention they really failed with their mission.
What is the most obvious direction with this album is the fact that Primal Fear has developed from a heavy heavy metal band, into a happy flower power band, like many other bands nowadays. A more mainstream, almost poppish approach on nearly all songs, I mean there’s no chorus on here that doesn’t awake the feeling “oh hell, now I’ll turn this shit off”. PF has done some seriously awesome choruses through the years, but here, sorry guys all of them sucks. And the song “Everytime It Rains” is the worst of them all. Complete garbage! I know that deep inside, this is something PF never wanted to do, I can’t believe when i’m hearing it that a heavy metal icon like Mat Sinner wants to have such a song on any of his albums. Because this song IS completely, yeah 100% pop. Don’t come and argue with anything else!
And the second thing, which is equally disappointing is the used-to-be-a-scream-monster Ralf Scheeper. What has happened with the dude? Where is the Ralf we all know? He already started to sound weird on “Sevel Seals”, but that was on only some songs, here it’s almost everywhere. His voice doesn’t sound as sharp and ripping at all as before. In some passages I really can hear the old and great Ralf, or when he at least tries to (chorus of “Psycho”, end of “Blood on your hands”, verses of “Sign of Fear) but it never is the same thing as on example “Back From Hell” or “Sea Of Flames”. And it’s not only his screaming that sounds weaker, when he sings normal he doesn’t sound like before. I have hard to believe that he can’t scream and sing like he used to, it’s only that he’s told or, of course, wants to sing this way himself. Randy Black said on PF’s homepage that “Ralf seems to outdo himself” with each new album. Not a chance, I’d say. Ralf is one of the best singers on earth, but not when he’s sounding like he does on this album.
Another thing is the usage of keyboards and lack of good guitar solos. Keyboards and poppy music within ‘metal’ seems to be more audible every year that passes. A lot of bands that never used keyboards have started to use them, and way too much. It’s just on some of the songs on here, but I still think that is ‘some songs’ too much, you know? Guitar solos is something PF always has been doing great, following lead parts that sounds like Judas Priest’s on the good old albums, twin leads, long leads blasting out to space. Not much can be found on “New Religion”. Often sounding really uninspired and rushed, and too short everytime. Maybe they wasn’t focused enough while writing them, or they’re just simply out of ideas. The songs “New Religion” has a nice solo, but it’s cut as soon as you’ve heard it. “Fighting The Darkness” has a nice solo at 2:18, but it’s even shorter. The instrumental “The Darkness” has a great solo at 2:27, and it lasts a little bit longer, but not much. One really misses the long leads that could one for a long time with the old PF-albums. Stefan Leibing’s finger were on fire then, it’s not really like that here. This is a clear thing the band can improve to the next album, because I know they can.
I’ve now cleared the main downfalls with the album, and while it’s not many things that are positive, they do exist though. 2 good songs can be found. “Sign of Fear” is a heavy one, with Ralf’s best performance on the album. Really awesome intro with pounding drums and a quite heavy passage after. “Blood On Your Hands” is a classic heavy PF-song, the chorus is quite stupid, but compared with other choruses on the album it stands quite tall. In the middle the song opens a thrashy and heaviest passage on the whole album. This is it! It really shows what it is Primal Fear does best. Awesome riffs.The other great thing I see is the man behind the drums, Randy Black, the strongest link in the band at the moment. He’s being quite laid back and sometimes too much simple stuff, as always when drumming in PF, but still he makes the songs a little bit better and some awesome fills can be found here and there. I hope he will be allowed to show even more skills on the next album, and that he won’t leave the band.
This few positive things can’t help the album much though, since there’s much more minuses. PF has done exactly the same as Nocturnal Rites this year: going so low that I never thought they would. I really hope though that this is just a bad escapade, a “middle album” that will be forgotten and that the band will strike back with a much better album next time. For that, they must NOT develop this direction shown on “New Religion” even further, instead they must think on what they’re best on: solid German heavy metal. I really recommend you to avoid this album, ‘cause this new Primal Fear CD is, sad but true, their absolutely weakest album so far.