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I've gotta say I'm disappointed in this one. I was one of the defenders of 2004's Devil's Ground, and I still think it's their best album overall, but this is a big letdown. The band made a big deal about 'making some changes' on this CD, which had us all worried, but it turns out the 'changes' were just really minor things like using keys a bit more, so that's not the problem here, the problem with Seven Seals is that rather than write new songs Matt Sinner just hit the 'snooze' button and recycled old ones instead.
If Devil's Ground was 90% killer, then Seven Seals is 90% filler. There just are not very many good songs on here. Opener "Demons And Angels" is okay, but it almost completely recycles the much better "Lightyears From Home" off Black Sun. "Rollercoaster" is probably the best song on here, and the supremely stupid lyrics almost kill it. The title track is pretty good, but then we get a bunch of fill-in tracks like "Evil Spell", "The Immortal Ones" and "All For One" – songs that sound like you took all the filler cuts off the last three albums and set the blender on 'puree' – dull, dull, dull. "Diabolus" is pretty good, and "Carniwar" has some balls, but they are not on a par with any single song off Devil's Ground or Nuclear Fire. The absolute suck is the ballad "In Memory", which is maybe the worst song Primal Fear have ever recorded. It honestly sounds like a Pearl Jam song, or some wussy piece of shit from Stone Temple Pilots – I am not kidding. All-acoustic-strummed-flannel-wearing-shitpile. This album would have rated a 4 maybe without that one.
But maybe not, this is not a terrible album, but I am not so complacent that I will eat lukewarm crap and like it just because it's from a good band. Primal Fear can do much, much better than this, and I expect them to. Seven Seals isn't a waste of time, but it is pretty darned mediocre.
Originally Written for www.metalcrypt.com
Primal Fear has perfected their sound here on "Seven Seals", and much credit can be given to super-producer Charlie Bauerfeind, who provides some of the best knob-turning you’ll hear on a metal album this year on this incredibly potent record. The band has taken a different approach on this record, which features much more in terms of dynamics than the band’s previous outings and finds the band moving toward a more traditional metal sound that resonates deeply on the ripping opening cut “Demons And Angels” and through tracks such as the stick-to-your-brain “Rollercoaster” and the weighty title track.
Vocalist Ralf Scheepers is in top form here, leading the band through over-the-top metal riffing and wall-of-sound rhythms with a highly commanding presence. What’s most striking about “Seven Seals” is the immediate memorability of the music. There is a familiarity that threads throughout the album’s cuts that is irresistible. Overpowering melodies accompany superb songcrafting during “Evil Spell”, a cut which updates NWOBHM type, twin guitar harmonies with a distinctly foreboding charisma. The chaotically urgent riffing of Stefan Leibing and Tom Naumann creates a massive landscape of steely metal aggression as Scheepers unloads with a massive vocal presence.
Throughout the record, Primal Fear proves over and over again why they’re Germany’s finest on this, the group’s most highly compelling album to date. There can be no doubt that Primal Fear are one of the most high-powered European metal exports of today and this persuasive collection of decidedly marvelous metal stands as mandatory listening for fans of everything from Helloween to Judas Priest. Make no mistake, “Seven Seals” is amongst metal’s most auspicious albums of this year and the fantastic orchestration of songs such as the brilliantly epic “Diabolus” ensures that Primal Fear is a name that metal fans will be hearing a great deal from in the coming year.
Primal Fear has been pegged as a Judas Priest clone since it’s very inception in most circles, as the Rob Halford emulation that Ralf Scheepers has exhibited has been common knowledge since his time with Tyran’ Pace. However, whereas on previous releases the label pretty much fit, this album is a rather necessary departure from that box. I myself have been a steady fan of this band, as I had wished that more bands had caught onto the Painkiller era of Priest, but they have not done nearly as much as bands such as Gamma Ray and Iron Savior to distinguish themselves from their predecessors.
The addition to guitarist/keyboardist Stefan Leibing gave this band a real shot in the arm after 3 very similar sounding releases, and here his capabilities at both instruments are what catapult this album out of the mere Priest-worship status and into something much more progressive. The presence of the keyboards mostly accomplishes an increase in the atmosphere of the songs, particularly the intros of songs such as “Seven Seals” and “Evil Spell”. They also take the edge off a bit during the slow sections of “All for One” and the entirety of the lone ballad “In Memory”, as Scheepers’ voice is often overpowering and the guitar lines tend to be highly minimalist.
Although Primal Fear has done much to evolve their sound in the atmospheric department, they have obviously not forgotten their roots as this album is still a relentless assault of fast paced songs. “Demons and Angels” is pretty much a more powerful and keyboard loaded revamp of “Angel in Black”, which was the strongest track on their 3rd release. “Evil Spell” takes the spot for the fastest song on here, and highlights the proficiency of Randy Black. “All for One” has an intro a bit similar to Dream Theatre’s “Endless Sacrifice”, but is otherwise a highly catchy up tempo cooker. The Sinner cover “A Question of Honor” is also highly catchy, and I must say I prefer Scheepers’ vocal rendition to that of Mat Sinner.
There are only a few slower tracks on here, and ironically it is during these tracks where Scheepers really showcases his vocal ability. The title track sees him utilizing his powerful upper range to create an extremely memorable song, while “Carniwar” is loaded with dirty screams that are highly reminiscent of such memorable Painkiller tracks such as “Nightcrawler” and “Metal Meltdown”. Meanwhile, on “In Memory” we get a rather rare chance to hear the lower end of Scheepers’ range, and it is a must needed change of pace from the endless barrage of banshee wails and roughed edged screams.
This is definitely one of PF’s finer works, as they have started to experiment a bit with some textural devices. I can recommend this album very strongly to fans of later Judas Priest, fans of bands influenced by them such as Gamma Ray and Iron Savior, and to any fan of power metal that isn’t addicted to the keyboard shredding character of the Stratovarius wing. They are not geared towards the progressive scene, nor are they rough edged enough to appeal to fans of thrash, but I think that non-purist fans of the NWOBHM might want to give these guys a chance.
Up to this new release from Primal Fear I have always been bound to think of them as one of the few snipers able to strike the target at any shoot they take. The name of that “target” is too much known for the metal audience – Judas Priest. Being a big admirer of the stuff these British Colossi used to make in their day, I, for one, have always remained indifferent about any effort they have made since the glorious times of the Painkiller album. As a result, the vacuum stemmed out of the lack of good portion of metal oxygen was to be filled by someone, and for me it was the bands such as Primal Fear, Iron Savior, Iced Earth, Brainstorm, Cage, Mystic Prophecy and the likes who managed to infuse a fresh spirit into the genre some time ago.
I don’t feel like enlisting the band’s previous merits; let’s just say all of their former albums from the self-titled debut to the penultimate solid work “Devil’s Ground” can be regarded as diamonds. Some of them are a bit rough, others are nearly flawless, but, anyway, all of them can take their honorary place in any metal collection. But the stuff they are going to treat their fans with on the album under consideration is simply matchless (within the bounds of Primal Fear, of course) in every respect.
After the very first spin I could confidently claim Primal Fear to have been fed up with their sounding like Judas Priest. The vast application of keys just strengthens this feeling. But all these novelties serve as fairly good diluents for the pure metal structures used by the band. For the time being, I can warrant that the album will bring about diametrically opposed opinions. Dissimilar to their entire legacy, this album will certainly make some faces lengthen with discontent and disappointment. Others, at the very same time, will be radiant with gratification.
So why am I making such a big fuss over this album? There are two main reasons for this. One, with this new material the band has more than obviously come off the beaten track, which can create a real furore among its faithful freaks. And two, in the view of songwriting this is the most terrific opus by these Germans with not a single filler, just sheer killers.
From the hurricane-like Demons and Angels to the ultimate tranquilizer In Memory we are expected to make an absorbing journey with a quite a few unusual keyboard excursuses and nearly hard rock guitar solo arcades. The key presence is rather conspicuous in some tracks and barely perceptible in the rest of them. On the other hand, this fact doesn’t drag the whole work downwards. Quite the other way round, it gives the album some touch of solemnity as, for instance, in the title Seven Seals song and Diabolus. Moreover, the guitars are still dominant here, but more polished and well crafted as compared with the former stuff. Such guitar oriented killers as All for One or Rollercoaster are able to toss your heart up much higher than the Tower of Babel.
So, as I’ve said above we are in for a completely new Primal Fear from the cover artwork to the musical essence on the whole. Though the omnipresent eagle is still gazing upon us from the front cover this species is absolutely different from its elder brothers since now it has been immortalized as a kind of embossment.
Well, what can be inferred from Seven Seals is that utilizing new sounds and symphonic elements seems to be right up their street. The masterly adaptation of innovations to the old framework spurs you to misbelieve that the band has played each piece of this new stuff before although history and facts are stubborn things and can tell you quite the opposite. Speaking of the sound side of the album, it goes without saying that this new stuff stands one step higher than their previous one. I knowingly didn’t conduct a track-by-track analysis here in order to excite your curiosity and make up your own mind. But I’d like to warn those with a more obstinate view on any novelties – even if you a headstrong fan try previewing it before buying. This album can only evoke two feelings – love or hate.