1. Metal Is Forever
2. Suicide And Mania
3. Visions Of Fate
4. Sea Of Flames
5. The Healer
6. Sacred Illusion
7. In Metal
8. Soulchaser
9. Colony 13
10. Wings Of Desire
11. Heart Of A Brave
12. Devil's Ground

Ralf Scheepers - lead vocals

Stefan Leibing - guitars and keyboards

Tom Naumann - guitar

Mat Sinner - bass and vocals

Randy Black - drums

PRIMAL FEAR : "Devil's Ground"   primal fear          nuclear blast

produced by Mat Sinner
engineered & mixed by Achim Köhler
House of Music Studios - Germany

review  by dalia "gryphon_spirit" di giacomo____   

The iron eagles are flying fierce in the moonlight over the wounds of a broken metropolis, after all the connection with Ground Zero and the tragedy of the Twin Towers could be evident, nevertheless PF eagles are used to fly as  musical "defenders" of the True/Power/Heavy/Hard Rock genre or whatever you like to call it. For me personally "Power metal" is an empty concept nowadays, it tells everything and nothing. Bands of the once generally called -Power area are becoming much more interesting, darker, spanning from Heavy Metal to Hard Rock, creating a varied population of styles and direction. But i presume they get their problems : to become darker is not easy for them, to become innovative is an even harder mission, they must remain heavy where Melodic Rock acts at the borderline with Metal can also simply deliver a good Hard Rock. But the True/"Power" Metallers, they cannot, they must and want to be Metal, though in the well known different way, trying to carry a flag in which they strongly believe. And surely there is no lack of fans for them. In this picture, Primal Fear have always played an important role in the European scene, exporting their music to the world, creating a strategic net of fan organization divided into "metal commandos". Since years the eagles seem to serve a mission and now, perched on a gargoyle of an ancient building (a cathedral, maybe ?) are watching severe the damage made by the modern society, but becoming more modern in their turn......Consequently, transposing it to a musical message,  Primal Fear have improved engagement and attention to vocals and sound, have changed drummer (though i still prefer the previous Klaus Sperling's drums of doom than  ex-Annihilator Randy Black, who has brought anyway fresh  wind). Result is their new release in which they are much more Heavy metal and Hard Rock oriented (clear are the influences coming from Judas Priest), much more mature, darker and a bit more tormented. The rhythmic session provides a huge work, so bass tonalities are groovy and reverberant, thanks to clever bass lines and a surely proper drumming. But one feature has improved above all, taking the right sorrowful blessed path : the guitars, in particular the lead sounds which are weeping, razorblade sharp, almost decadent (and this is a compliment), sensitive : in one word emotional. Stop to happiness (though PF have never been a completely happy band, on the contrary) but now the moment has come to add a veil of impalpable permanent sadness to the rocking anthems. Vocals are more layered cause often proposed in "choir", they are high but not always and never in excess. Indeed main vocalist Scheepers, helped by a resolute backing support, doesn't appear anymore the bright superman of the situation (at least seen from a mere audio impact) but this, far from becoming a negative aspect, gives a touch of humanity to the iron commando. Like i will tell in my analysis, if it were not for 3 tracks that should be completely forgotten, PF would have made a 100% great super album. But anyway Devil's Ground is a very good CD. I cannot dare say it is their best CD ever till now, cause the previous releases too had their moments of glory, nevertheless it is a remarkable serious work, well arranged and produced, that better meets (if ever possible) my personal taste. 

Metal is forever is a catchy almost anthemic opener, Judas Priest oriented, which "Power" and Heavy Metallers, plus Rockers too surely can find enthralling. A track where the high vocals are counterbalanced by a pleasant  refrain and a well calibrated rhythmic session, engaged in working out the best from the bass tunes, here, as well as in the whole album.

Again catchy, delivering a mixture between Melodic Heavy and Rock, is the uptempo Suicide and Mania, where the chocked strokes lavished by lead guitar notes together with solo's and a percussive proceeding, are  protagonists and enrich a musical theme that, though agreeable and catchy, would appear actually too much catchy and easy without the insertion of proper supports. 

Steamhammering and a bit dark in full Melodic Rock/Heavy style, Visions of Fate, delivers a great instrumental work but, imo, is damaged by a weak and a bit boring refrain, somehow  heard "thousand" times. Intense but too predictable, frankly nothing new.

A resolute Heavy Metal is the intro of Sea of Flames. It begins too well to think that it will remain as such, and indeed after an explosive and overwhelming beginning the song unfortunately doesn't maintain the expectations launching another predictable and not up-to-the-task refrain, moreover the refrain in question is shortly preceded by a totally disagreeable passage vocally underlined by the stretching towards higher notes able only to give a sense of false notes. A real pity.

But we are ready for higher levels with the fifth track, The Healer, that should have been placed immediately after the second one, deleting from the face of PF discography the previous two ones, seen before. The Healer has something of desperately mystic inside of it, very melodic, it imposes long notes both to vocals and bass and drums that must be played heavy anyway. So something highly melodic and balladesque must have a certain propelling always : i like it in the way it's done, but some others could find it not perfectly coordinated due to vocals too much protracted in comparison to drumming. Anyway a real good track introduced by an acoustic-like arpeggio, sorrowful, intensified both by lead and bass sound, and call-to-arms drumming, enriched by a fake "fading away" with pause and new re-start, that is always an irresistible factor.

Sacred Illusion represents the last low point. It starts off thundering, roaring, hammering, rocking a bit in American style, and everything you want to say, but is literally killed by another false step due to some wrong and crooked notes that sacrifice the song again in the moment of transition before launching the refrain. A short moment of choir completely unlistenable. So another potential good track sacrificed on the altar of some small  crap musical oddity, never mind how small it is. Maybe it's only me, but i really don't understand some choices, mah... and it's the third track to throw away. But it's also true that this will be the last one. Without any other problem, for me the rest of the album will proceed flawless.

And now it's time for another ode "to" and "in" Metal, like only PF can do : a kind of trademark for true Metallers. In Metal offers also distorted strings, hammering and rasping riffs, ideal mid tempo both for Americans and Europeans. Here PF hit the mark with catchiness and cleverness and the same they are doing with the following Soulchaser, a bit anthemic, providing a lively up tempo whose musical phrases have much of old Helloween. 

Colony 13, provides a reverberating, heavy rocking and Heavy Metal flavour in the 80's style, a catchy, rolling track that sounds somehow different from all the rest, with a different way to approach the very beginning of it. Some Van Halen sonorities can also be found. The old-school meets here an up-to-dated way of expression. 

Wings of Desire is another melodic and inspired balladesque sorrowful moment. Not particularly innovative but sticky as few, with razorblade sharp weeping lead and a brilliant rhythmic section which is gifting us with all techniques possible in Power/True. Apart from the too easy lyrics "higher and higher...wings of desire..." it is anyway a real good, enjoyable and sensitive track.

Heart of a Brave is based on Heavy/Rock'n'roll with metropolitan haunting aspects of sadness. For me it is one of the best songs of the album, surely one of those who magnetized my attention the most. Dressed up as a Rocking uptempo, it seems there is a spirit of modern alienation, that doesn't make of it a useless anthem.

And here we are, virtually, in front of the crucial point : the title track Devil's Ground that is a long atmospheric spoken outro. With a cavernous epic voice, a mysterious supernatural teller is giving us a vision of Apocalypse and Judgment, a vision of the Lake of Fire, of the place for fallen Angels. 

"If you go to Hell...be sure... you will be there forever". 

Rating: 8.4/10


dalia di giacomo    
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