It has been two years since Primal Fear last released an album and fifteen since their last one on the Nuclear Blast label. But they’re back with Metal Commando out now.
Now before I begin, a little backstory. I’ve always had a strange relationship with the Metal scenes. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, but there was something that puts me off modern Metal. Maybe it was because I went through a Goth phase and felt like most modern Metal bands were trying to coop our aesthetic and merge it with panda based cosplay, I don’t know. That said, they are several subgenres I enjoy, and I even had a penchant for Power Metal and bands like Manowar…that was until Sabaton showed up and made them all sound like roided out LARPers.
But Primal Fear’s Metal Commando doesn’t carry that standard Power Metal, fantasy background, sound. They’re like a modernized take on “The new wave of British heavy metal” from the late 70s and 80s. Opening with ‘I Am Alive’, we’re treated to an opening that can only be classed as epic. Guitar and thundering drums that build up a strong arrangement, wrapped around an Allegrissimo tempo that peaks and stays there across the whole track. Meanwhile, follow up track ‘Along Came the Devil’, while having a slightly slower tempo, is just as energetic as the last, with something of a Judas Priest feel.
Commando even includes a ballad ‘Hear me Calling’, with a slower tempo and more profound lyrics. I think I need to mention it because it feels like aeons since I last heard a Metal band do a ballad. I thought the style had died out and to embrace it was to enact some terrible social faux pas. You can see what I mean by modernization of “The new wave of British heavy metal”. You can hear Primal Fear’s inspiration in every track.
The lyrics on the tracks are not the nihilistic whinging and suburban angst that has been polluting Metal for oh so very long. Take ‘I Am Alive’ – despite claiming that they’ll be dead soon, quite a life-affirming and uplifting track. Conquering self-doubt and pain, yeah we’ll die, but right now we’re alive. ‘Along Came The Devil’ is about the bonds of friendship the band share and that it can never break. Having grown up during Metal’s shift to bleak, impotent angst that is the most refreshing thing I’ve heard in an age.
The above gushing praise and nostalgia aside, there are problems with the album. Primal Fear have a dedication to their sound that borders on dogmatic. There is little room for arrangement change or experimentations. Rhythm and tempos shift between each track, thus preventing the dreaded One-Track syndrome. But it also means that if you listen to any track at random, you’ve heard the whole album.
Primal Fear is, I feel, one of the few bands today that understand their roots and are willing to build upon them. Metal Commando is proof of this, and for that reason alone you should pick up the album.
Metal Commando is out now and available to buy here.