In the same way a book should never be judged by its cover, albums should be played in their entirety before they are determined to be good or bad-except in this case. The five-piece German band Primal Fear released its sixth studio recording this past Tuesday to high expectations, but unlike the group's flying eagle logo, this album does not soar.
Entitled Seven Seals after the biblical apocalypse in the Book of Revelation, Primal Fear's latest offering is a bit of a letdown. Rather than a continuation of the previous neck-thrashing releases, Seven Seals is a 10-track, mid-tempo project where all the songs sound painfully alike. As soon as the first song, "Demons and Angels," begins with choppy and distorted guitar riffs, it is clear that this album was, in fact, created by demons-and not in a good way.
In a recent press release from Nuclear Blast, the band's record company, Seven Seals is cited as "undoubtedly the most varied, epic and musically sophisticated album Primal Fear have released so far."
Unfortunately, the record comes up short, with what sounds like one long, tiresome song. While older releases such as 2001's Nuclear Fire and 2002's Black Sun hosted both fast and slow songs, Seven Seals drones from track to track with repetitive and textbook maneuvers.
Primal Fear is stylistically similar to classic hard rockers Judas Priest, right down to the infamous shrieking of Priest frontman Rob Halford.
Also, the sound of the driving dual guitars and up-tempo drums has been pulled out of heavy metal history, but this time, rather than sounding like an homage to classic metal, it comes off as stale and uninteresting.
What makes this album dull is not that the tracks are poorly constructed, but the fact that the album is full of songs without the thrash element of classic heavy metal, which aids in avoiding painful slow power ballads that plagued hard music during the 70s and 80s.
Vocalist Ralf Scheepers and company create tunes that will drive people insane with cheesy major chords and over the top melodies. Song titles like "Rollercoaster" and "Carniwar" are prime examples of the tacky and gaudy elements on this album.
Primal Fear's previous releases may have been on the flakier side as well, covering topics such as heavy metal robots and lasers, but they were much more tolerable because of the speed and execution of the music.
Although the band's image may be gaudy and glitzy, the musicians' delivery is solid. But while the execution of the music shows talent, the songs have no staying power. Primal Fear's guitarists Tom Maumann and Stefan Leibing sound as if they are just going through the moves rather than creating something fresh and exciting.
The note-heavy solos come off as unmemorable and downright boring. The title track is a prime example, where Scheepers plods along to the topic of religious rapture: "The time has come / The end is near / A firestorm / The curse is done / My search is over / The alter of souls / Don't want to be the one to live in fear / Seven angels standing near."
Lyrics about topics so dramatic as the end of the world need to evoke a feeling more intense then apathy. If the slow and sorrowful solo that emerges after one of the choruses is forgotten by the time it is over, it says something about the lack of originality in this album.
The songs may seem heavier and faster than conventional radio hits, but they do not compare to earlier Primal Fear. Seven Seals leaves much to be desired with its meandering pace and borderline power metal beats, which make this release almost as devastating as the actual Armageddon.