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No, this isn't Primal Fear, but good guess. - 86%

hells_unicorn, May 5th, 2012

For a long time I’ve hated the movie “Rock Star”, which would be normal for any self-respecting metal head, except for the fact that I never actually sat through the thing. That changed a few months after I first heard this album (late 2007 if I remember correctly) and later picked up an old San Francisco Chronicle issue from 2001 with an interview with then Judas Priest front man Tim “Ripper” Owens. After a subsequent viewing of the LA sleaze inspired abomination that was guising as a fictitious version of Judas Priest, I fully understood my own hatred for it, and more importantly, why Owens was never crazy about how some halfwit script writer decided to take his story and utterly butcher it into some bad joke with Jennifer Aniston being the lone net positive.

Fiction can be fun, but often times it creates false impressions of the reality it takes inspiration from, and a single listen to not only Ripper’s work with Priest, Iced Earth, and his various other projects will debunk any false impression regarding him being some sort of girlie man with too much mascara on. Of his various lone ventures, Beyond Fear has proven to be the most inviting for those who either know or don’t know much about his work. It functions as a sort of summarized portfolio of his various exploits with all previous bands, and presents it in a compact package that is easy to digest and, more importantly, easy to bang your head to.

There’s a little bit of everything thrown into this little puppy, such as a half-ballad right out of the Jon Schaeffer formula in “Dreams Come True”, a modern metallic speed assault on steroids in the later Judas Priest era (think “Jugulator”) in “Scream Machine”, and even a slight helping of melodic rock in “My Last Words” which somewhat resembles the middle era work of Seven Witches and Metalium. About the only thing that this thing doesn’t really get into is the gallop happy thrashing of Iced Earth’s faster material, but the riff set misses little in the aggression department regardless. It’s modern in the sense that it generally resembles similar efforts out of Leash Law, Killing Machine, and a few others, but the one area in which it retains some much needed orthodoxy is the vocal department, which is prototypical Halford worship as only the Ripper can deliver.

Weak links are a virtual non-existence on here, and apart from a heavily predictable formula that has been around for 10 years (pioneered in large part by Ripper’s own work with Priest), this album is one solid beam of metal. There are a few points of progression to be found on “Your Time Has Come” where some balladic and Neo-classical themes are thrown in and “Words Of Wisdom” where things take on a slightly thrashing character, but this thing mostly sticks to a compartmentalized version of heavy metal where little pieces of different sub-genres are thrown in, but largely the whole comes off as monolithic, though also megalithic when dealing particularly with the latter of the two songs mentioned, along with other gigantic bruisers like “Scream Machine” and “Telling Lies”.

Like many other accomplished front men going back to Ronnie Dio himself, Ripper has learned about building a formidable beast of his own to rival his former compatriots. The only real let down with Beyond Fear is that in 6 years Owens hasn’t managed to put out a worthy follow up under the same moniker (there is another album under Tim’s own name that falls pretty far short of this). Hopefully his time with Dio Disciples will give him some inspiration and that will all change, which might be a real possibility given that he’s still touring under Beyond Fear alongside his perhaps more poignant and better known project of late.