Album Review – Metal Commando by Primal Fear (Nuclear Blast Records)

German heavy metal juggernauts, Primal Fear, are back with a brand new album called Metal Commando, due for release on the 24th of July via Nuclear Blast.

Primal Fear formed back in 1997 by Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray) and Mat Sinner (ex-Sinner). Aside from their main bands, they hooked up for Scheepers Judas Priest covers band, Just Priest. It was then that the idea of Primal Fear was spawned. They signed up to Nuclear Blast late 1997 and released their debut, the self titled Primal Fear, in 1998 to worldwide acclaim. They churned pout album after album at a phenomenal rate with a further 11 studio albums, 2 compilations and 2 live albums all coming out by 2018. 16 releases in 20 years. That brings us up to their most recent release, 2018’s Apocalypse and finally to now, their inkling 13th album, Metal Commando.

Primal Fear are Ralf Scheepers on lead vocals, Mat Sinner on bass and co-lead vocals and Magnus Karlsson on guitars and keyboards. Alongside them we have Alex Beyrodt on guitars, Tom Naumann on guitars and backing vocals and Michael Ehré on the drums.

Primal Fear band Metal Commando

Like a snake, Primal Fear have shed their old skin for Metal Commando. As the new serpent emerges it is now rejuvenated, bigger and ultimately more powerful. Mat Sinner describes Primal Fear on Metal Commando as:

What was heavy is heavier, what was epic is even more epic, what was fast is faster and what was dark is darker.”

Metal Commando comes with 11 tracks on it in total and is around 57 minutes in length. As a whole album, it is a glorious feast of screaming lead guitars, punchy riffs and Halford esque piercing vocals. If you like your metal delivered in a traditional power metal style with bouncing hooks, huge solos and catchy choruses, Metal Commando is going to be your jam. Right from the album opener, I am Alive, you get swept up in an old school feeling anthem with glorious melodies, an infectious chorus and plenty of big hitting rhythm to hold it altogether while Scheepers screams “I Am Alive!” in a way that make you feel alive.

Metal Commando passes by in seconds due to how catchy it is. I love the traditional vibe but modern production. Primal Fear really do make it like they did in the old days. There is still plenty of variety on offer though and it isn’t just a nostalgic trip. Songs like Along Came the Devil has a darker tone to it. There is a nice layer of groove, another catchy chorus and some exciting vocal work that ranges from glass shattering screeches to a more menacing, more restrained tone. Halo goes straight for the jugular with thrash speed and energy. The drums are insanely good but man, that chorus is something else. The swirling guitar melody and passionate vocals combine to create brilliance.

Hear Me Calling is a bit of a ballad with softly sung verses and a lovely chorus. It is bookended by a nice and heavy groove intro and a heavier outro – not just a straight up ballad. The Lost and the Forgotten gets even darker and heavier bringing some unclean vocals and a mix of styles in alongside a bass heavy riff that has plenty of power and aggression wrapped up in it. My Name is Fear brings back the speed with a ferocious drum rhythm, furious guitar flurries and catchy vocals. It also has one of the best solos on the whole album and that is saying something as Metal Commando is chock full of amazing solos.

I Will Be Gone is the straight up ballad of the album. Acoustic guitars and everything. It is sung well, of course, and has a nice little acoustic guitar melody. It isn’t my favourite though – it really comes as a shock to the system after so much energy coming through on the songs before it. We get back up to full speed next though with Raise Your Fists. This is a good song. I love the dual guitars in the intro in a track that should become a live favourite for fans.

Howl of the Banshee is pretty decent. There is a nice rhythm to it and the riffs are cool. It doesn’t really offer much that we haven’t heard already but is still very strong. The penultimate track is called Afterlife and is more of the same, but in a good way. Catchy guitars, an infectious drum beat and powerful vocals combine to create a treat for your ears. The transition into prechorus and then into the hugely catchy chorus is great and the solo is a Dragonforce like harmonised banger. All this quality and we still have a closing track to go with the surprising, Infinity.

Initially it is surprising because it is over 13 minutes long on an album full of 4 ish minute tracks. It has a sombre feel to it and would best be described as epic. Husky vocals and a simple guitar melody start the song slowly. It builds gently before transitioning into a fuller sound with huge drums and harmonised leads. A chugging riff follows as the vocals and drums pick up the pace with force. It builds into a powerful anthem of a chorus and drops the most sublime of guitar solos before it slowly fades back to the acoustic intro from the start.

That throws you again because it fades out with over 3 minutes to go. It then leads into a kind of atmospheric, demonic backing chant as it continues to fade out, then, out of the blue we suddenly have orchestral sounds building back in, then in come the drums and guitars and bang – have another cracking instrumental section before the piano, alone, fades us out to the end. It’s crazy, I don’t really get it but I absolutely love it. Brilliant and what a way to close out an album.

Metal Commando surprised the hell out of me. Primal Fear are a solid band I have always liked but would never say I loved. This album though, Metal Commando, I love. It is exciting and exhilarating metal that will leave you breathless. There is a load of variety on it. Songs that get quite dark, songs that are epic in scale and songs that are a bit more thrashy and in your face. Primal Fear really have set a high bar with Metal Commando. An album that is going to be up there when it comes to everyone’s end of year albums of 2020.

Preorder your copy from Nuclear Blast, here.

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Metal Commando by Primal Fear (Nuclear Blast Records)
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