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Why Ralf Scheepers made this album solo project instead of just another Primal Fear record just makes no sense to me. It sounds like the first Primal Fear records, which also means it sounds like Judas Priest. I'm sure Primal Fear fans would have liked to see Ralf record an album that sounds like their classic material. Instead Ralf decided it would be better to make it a solo project and probably sell a lot less records.
If you haven’t heard of Ralf Scheepers before one thing you need to know is that he really really likes Rob Halford. When he wants to he can sound a lot like Halford and he wants to a lot. It’s kinda like that movie Rock Star with Mark Walburg, where he is a guy who worships a band and wants to do everything exactly like them. Eventually he learns that to be a true artist he needs to create his own original sound, except Ralf Scheepers still seems to really want to sound like Judas Priest. Luckily for him he has a slight German accent that distinguishes his voice from Halfords.
Overall the album is pretty average and unoriginal. Ralf Scheepers can really sing but as I said before he sounds like Halford. He wants to be Rob Halford so much that he has Ripper, probably the only guy who likes Halford more, do vocals on Remission of Sin. Why he had another singer sing on his solo album is beyond me, but it sounds ok. Scheepers voice isn’t the only thing Priest like on the album. The riffs sound either like Judas Priest or like generic power metal, nothing too special. There are a few ballads such as The Fall, The Pain Of The Accused, and Compassion which are also ok. These ballads break the album up a little and give it a little different of a sound.
If you like Judas Priest and are looking for more music that sounds like them check Scheepers out, but if you don’t like Judas Priest you will not like this album. It isn’t anything new and original but it’s worth a shot if you are into Judas Priest.
Solo projects tend to exist for two purposes, one being so that a member of an established band can do some heavy experimentation, the other being so that a member of an established band can do some light experimentation. A good example of the former would be that of Timo Tolkki’s various non-metal ventures or Oliver Hartmann’s self-named AOR project. The latter style could be observed in a number of projects undertaken by members of Sleep which have pretty close ties to their older material, or for a more obvious example, Tom Petty’s albums “Full Moon Fever” and “Wild Flowers”, which featured all or most of The Heartbreakers and didn’t really sound all that stylistically different from what was done on the full band’s renowned releases.
In every respect, Ralf Scheepers has taken Tom Petty’s concept of doing things all but exactly the same but putting himself out even further into the limelight to a different level. His self-titled album could easily be the next in a succession of solid Primal Fear albums since Nuclear Fire, complete with the Magnus Karlsson and Mat Sinner. The sound is all but a complete hybrid of the high orchestral keyboard tendencies of “Seven Seals” and the modernistic reinterpretation of Painkiller that was “16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead)”, touched up with an even more Zakk Wylde-like set of riffs out of Karlsson and some slightly more impressive dueling leads with the accompanied efforts of Sander Gommans.
The natural question that comes to mind is “How does it come out?”, and the answer is about as solid as well tempered steel. The only thing that really seems to separate this from the last 3 Primal Fear offerings is the prevalence of guest slots, of which there are several auspicious moments. The most surprising and enthralling combination is Ralf’s duet with Tim Owens (formerly “Ripper”) on “Remission Of Sin“, the same man who beat him out for the privilege of fronting Judas Priest. Whether this was simply a curious venture for two vocalists who sound all but exactly alike vocally (Owens is a bit more forceful and gritty, while Scheepers has a more operatic yet slender sound) or a show of good sportsmanship on Ralf’s part, the song slays in the same fashion as a number of mid-paced riff monsters from Judas Priest’s metallic 80s albums. The lead guitar slots put on by Kai Hansen and Victor Smolski are also extremely well done, showcasing how the instrument can sing consonantly instead of simply shredding in a frenzied fashion all day.
Apart from the impressive group of musicians in congress on here as either guests or session members, the material on here is pretty damned tight in itself. For those who remember the long succession of bludgeoning speeders in the mid-80s vain that makes regular appearances on Primal Fear’s studio efforts, “Locked In The Dungeon” and “Back On The Track” are instantly recognizable and full of energy, while “Play With Fire” takes a similar route yet almost sounds intense enough to have been on “Nuclear Fire”, the band’s crowning achievement to date. The slower paced material such as “The Fall” and “Doomsday” tend to get a bit more symphonic and reminiscent of “New Religion“, but also feature a slight Ozzy Osbourne touch in the riff department. Even the ballad work, which is a bit heavy at 3 out of 12 songs, is well accomplished and showcases Ralf in his ability to tone it down and simply sing when called for. The closing song “Compassion” is not really a metal ballad and is almost more akin to a folk rock tune, but it works well for what it is despite being a bit out of place amongst the rest of the album.
It is a pretty safe bet that anybody who follows Primal Fear or enjoyed Ralf’s work with Gamma Ray in the early 90s will like this, and some who may not be familiar with his 80s band Tyran’ Pace will be treated to one of their memorable anthems “Saints Of Rock” reinterpreted into something closer to Ralf’s current projects. By all standards, this is simply a Primal Fear album under a different name, and I will personally be thinking of it as such despite the lack of the band’s signature eagle mascot on the cover. For as the bald headed madman features here said a few years prior, metal is forever!!!
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 22, 2011.
I've long been a pretty big fan of Ralf Scheepers through his work with Gamma Ray and Primal Fear, though I feel the latter has been suffering of late from a dilution in purpose and quality. I heard some time ago that he was working on a solo effort, so I was a little surprised that, for the most part, the Scheepers album is so similar to his work in those bands. There's less hesitation here to break out into a tangent, granted, and so the material written for this is more varied than any particular album he's fronted in the past, but most is traditional heavy/power metal that reflects the past three Primal Fear efforts with a whole host of famous guests backing the shrieker though his emotional highs and lows.
Mat Sinner, Magnus Karlsson, Tim 'Ripper' Owens', Victor Smolski (Rage), Kai Hansen, and Metal Mike Chlasciak are just a few of the guests/session musicians here, but they don't offer a stamp of individual personality. Most of the tracks, like "Locked in the Dungeon", "Remission of Sin", "Doomsday", "Dynasty" and "Play with Fire" all seem like outtakes that might have been used on a Primal Fear effort, only with the exception of the latter, which might have fit snugly on Nuclear Fire, they're all fairly underwhelming. The tones seem a little more organic, and so does Scheepers himself, yet despite an honest attempt, some good leads and the general quality of the vocal presence, there's nothing here I'd want to hear over Sigh No More, Black Sun, or even the more pop-driven, accessible New Religion.
A small selection of tracks are more epic in nature, like "The Fall" with its choir, the cheese-glazed ballad "Before the Dawn", or the pure, Accept/Judas Priest rock & roll worship of "Saint of Rock", and all are handled well enough, but in the end even these don't burrow themselves deep into your memory. However, Scheepers at least gives us a glimpse here of his potential versatility. There's also a folksy, shanty-like track called "Compassions" which is corny, but interesting. In fact, I dare say that I wouldn't mind hearing Ralf sing outside of his usual metal scope, but the mix of songs here just seem like odds and ends and have very little cohesiveness as an album; not enough in common to hook you and reel you into the celebrity guest-boat. At its best, you get something you'd already expect from his primary band, and at worst, you get "Cyberfreak".
Ralf Scheepers has made quite a name for himself in Primal Fear, it is almost easy to forget that he was also the singer in Gamma Ray for a while. He auditioned for both Helloween and Judas Priest, but was not chosen either time. That almost seems irrelevant at this point, as Primal Fear can be considered to be among the upper pantheon of European Power Metal bands.
I was surprised to hear that Scheepers was doing a solo album, especially when I heard that Primal Fear band-mate Mat Sinner was also a part of Scheeper’s solo band (as is band-mate Magnus Karlsson). What is the point of doing a solo album if it sounds exactly like your other band? And sound like Primal Fear this does, although a more purified version of Primal Fear, back before the industrial and ambient influences crept into their music. However, the “Painkiller”-clone sounds from around the turn of the millennium are largely absent in favor of a more groove-based sound. I guess this gives Scheepers a chance to be the main focus of the songs.
The songs are generally varied and show about as much range as one can expect from Ralf Scheepers. Despite his tough-guy appearance on the cover with his shaved head, muscles and tattoo, he can still sound a bit whiny and off-key at times. This is really nothing new, and it is nowhere near as bad as some of the stuff he did with Gamma Ray. The press release compares him to Dio, Halford and Ian Gillan, and even though he can sound reminiscent of those greats at times, he comes nowhere close to matching their level of mastery.
Thankfully he chose wisely with his backing band although, as mentioned before, ½ are band-mates in Primal Fear. They are definitely competent and provide solid support, while stepping up when necessary. There are also a fair number of guests, probably the most effective being Kai Hansen, who does a solo on “The Pain of the Accursed.” Kudos for the cover of Judas Priest’s “Before the Dawn,” where Scheepers plays all of the instruments except for the solo, which was done by Victor Smolski.
The only real clunker on here is “Cyberworld,” which takes shots at internet nerds that hit about as hard as his voice does (which is not very), along with some cliché electronically altered vocals. Closer “Compassion” is pretty weak, and not every song leaves any sort of impact. For the most part, however, “Scheepers” is an admirable effort and it certainly justifies its existence. For fans of classic heavy metal or power metal this is definitely recommended.
(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)