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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)