Primal Fear

Seven Seals

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Love it or hate it, power metal is here to stay; and no band has done more staying than German supergroup Primal Fear, who arrive at their sixth studio release, Seven Seals (and seventh release overall, if you count 2002's Horrorscope EP -- hence the title), showing just as much conviction and, er, power, as ever before. What's more, where recent efforts had found singer Ralf Scheepers (ex-Gamma Ray, near-Rob Halford replacement) somewhat uninspired and prone to merely reminding you, again and again, how gloriously metallic metal is, here he proceeds to discuss how gloriously metallic things like demons, angels, and roller coasters are. Yes, we're hardly talking thought-provoking social commentary here, but when it comes to heroic, unapologetic, chest-pounding Teutonic metallurgy, it really doesn't get much better than album standouts like "Rollercoaster," "Evil Spell," and "The Immortal Ones," with their anthemic riffs, soaring choruses, and majestic backing synthesizer chords. The title track itself is a little more unusual, featuring a stuttering, mild-mannered melody at its core, and, although otherwise familiar in construction, surprisingly epic undertakings such as "All for One" and "Question of Honor" see Primal Fear breaking out of conventional song lengths more frequently than they'd dared in albums past. As well as obviously affording additional room for bassist/keyboardist Mat Sinner and guitarists Tom Naumann and Stefan Leibing to work their instrumental magic, this suggests a relaxing of Scheeper's "leadership" role, and arguably qualifies Seven Seals for the distinction of being Primal Fear's most consistent "band" effort yet. It probably still won't convert many power metal haters to the cause, but for those who never doubted in the first place, it only confirms the group as leaders of the movement.

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