"Seven Seals"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Demons and Angels
02. Rollercoaster
03. Seven Seals
04. Evil Spell
05. The Immortal Ones
06. Diabolus
07. All for One
08. Carniwar
09. Question of Honour
10. In Memory

RATING: 8.5/10

Let's get right to the point. Germany's PRIMAL FEAR are about to release the finest album of its career. This is no JUDAS PRIEST tribute album and you'll hear nothing like the scream of "Metal is forreeevvveeerrr!" from last year's "Devil's Ground". That does not mean that the PRIEST influence is no longer apparent, only that it is one of many influences incorporated into what is fast becoming the "PRIMAL FEAR sound." What PRIMAL FEAR brings is a giant leap forward in songwriting.

"Demons and Angels" and "Rollercoaster" begin the disc with a one-two punch of catchy choruses and gleaming metal riffs, accented by elegant keyboards that are heard throughout the album. Much more so than a band like JUDAS PRIEST, I'm hearing shades of the classy metal of countrymen RAGE on songs like the ballad-esque title track and epic "Diabolus", as well as the power metal sheen of rocker "The Immortal Ones". The more pronounced piano and synth parts on "Question of Honour" and "Evil Spell", respectively (both up-tempo tracks), sound fantastic, a pleasant surprise for this reviewer, as I wouldn't have guessed the band could pull it off with such aplomb. Last but not least, Ralf Scheepers has also raised his game. On "Seven Seals", the big guy proves that he is more than just a Halford screamer. As is clear from his patented shriek on "Carniwar", Scheepers has not left his patented paint-peeling delivery in the dust, but he does use a mid-register, darker approach on many of the songs. His performance on the mellow, almost folk-like album-closer "In Memory" is superb.

My emphasis on the sound-broadening aspects of "Seven Seals" should cause no one indigestion. Guitarists Stefan Leibing and Tom Naumann bust out a slew of killer riffs and solos. It's not like the classic style has been abandoned; this is simply the sound of a band that has now reached the metal mountaintop. This is heavy metal with class and maturity, and it still rocks like hell!


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