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The work and legacy of Primal Fear has somehow always eluded me. I've heard some of their songs from the earlier albums and I wasn't impressed. I thought that the singer's voice is unbearable and that they try too hard to be Judas Priest, which is obviously impossible. I had that opinion until I listened to Primal Fear's latest output, ''Unbreakable''.
Being pleasantly surprised is great, and Primal Fear sure as hell pleasantly surprised me with ''Unbreakable''. It seems that they have improved a lot since their early days, as everything that bugged me about this band is gone now. I will explain it now more profoundly...
Earlier in this review I mentioned that Primal Fear's vocalist, Ralf Scheepers was probably the main reason why I disliked the band before, since he was very annoying and so desperatly trying to sound like Rob Halford that it was pathetic. Now, he has a much more subtle and unpretensive approach, and that change is for better, no question about it. Ironically enough, he really sounds dead-on Halford in his mid-range, you could almost mix them. Of course, the Painkiller area is beyond Scheepers's reach, but who the fuck cares? You have one very competent, are more importantly, very motivated vocalist behind the mic, and combined with great songwriting, it's showtime, baby!
The Priest factor is still the key in Fear's music, but now I can notice even some Saxon, Helloween, even Def Leppard (?!) bits as well. Primal Fear sound like a big conglomerate of various brilliant heavy metal artists, and while that's good, because you know you can't make no mistake with them, I'd still like to hear some individual, original aspects. True, originality for the purpose of being original isn't always good, but Primal Fear aren't rookies in metal scene, they have a name, status and experience, so I think it's right time for them to start doing some experiments, even if they don't end up so good. I'd appreciate that very much. One more thing that can be seen as a flaw - the lack of depth. Headbanging, rocking hard, being victorious - that's what's Primal Fear all about, nothing more, nothing less. So if you had problems with ''Painkiller'', than it'll be best for you to skip this album and this band in general.
So there's nothing so innovative or original about these songs, but make no mistake, it doesn't mean that ''Unbreakable'' is a bad album, cause it definitely isn't. No, this is a healthy dose of good ol' heavy/power metal, and if you're willing to have some good time, welcome aboard!
The winning streak pretty much doesn't end from the start to the last two songs, ''Blaze of Glory'' and ''Conviction'', which are honestly mediocre. But the rest is no slouch. What is most interesting to me that most of these songs could be called generic (you've already heard dozens of similar riffs, lyrics etc.), but still, every single one has a certain ''touch'' which makes it extremely memorable. One moment is enough to transcend it from lead to gold. And when it happens, it just feels great.
Now, the highlights. The central part of this album is also the best, with five great songs in a row: ''And There Was Silence'', ''Metal Nation'', ''Where Angels Die'', ''Unbreakable pt. II'' and ''Marching Again''. Of all songs, I'll point out these three - ''Metal Nation'', ''Where Angels Die'' and ''Born Again''. When I saw that there's a song called ''Metal Nation'', I thought: ''That's gotta be the cheesiest and lamest song ever!''. It is as cheesy as any self-proclamed metal anthem, but is it lame? My god, no. It sounds like it came straight out from the 1985 and Saxon's ''Innocence Is No Excuse'' album, it has the same vibe. The chorus is frankly, very poppy, it highly reminds me of Def Leppard's ''Hysteria'', but nonetheless, this song kills and is destined to become Fear's live staple. ''Where Angels Die'' is the album's epic, and while it's not breaking the boundaries of metal's epics (''Rime of the Ancient Mariner'', this isn't), it is just awesome, with great intro, breakdown, main riff, and long, complex solo. How can you ask for more? ''Born Again'' works as the album's ballad, and we finally get some meaningful (even though cheesy), thought-provoking lyrics, about the existence of God and reincarnation. All this is spiced with some nice music, especially is notable the solo.
This album reminds me a lot of Iron Savior's latest ''The Landing'' album. Both of them aren't reinventing the wheel again, but they deliver the goods and are a fine addition to any metalhead's collection. I'll definitely catch up with Primal Fear's past work, and hope it's as good as this album, or even better. ''Unbreakable'' sets the bar of quality for 2012's heavy/power full-length albums, the bar is currently at 87 points and we'll see will it be topped. (Apparently, Pharaoh have released a great album, so I'll check it out ASAP). Highly recommended.