One of Germany’s most well-respected and prolific metal bands, Primal Fear, is back with a new album and plans for a massive tour that is expected to make a few stops in Canada later in 2016. It was release through Frontiers Music worldwide earlier in January.
Rulebreaker is the band’s 11th studio album since their formation in 1997, and follows on the heels of a busy and successful tour in support of their previous release, 2014’s Delivering the Black. It was released worldwide on Jan. 22 through Frontiers Music.
Primal Fear vocalist/co-founder Ralf Scheepers said the band only took a short break before returning to the rehearsal studio to hash out some new material for what would become Rulebreaker.
“We had a little time off but we didn’t want to lose any momentum from the last tour, which was a really amazing tour. I think we’re playing better than ever so we wanted to stay in that headspace when we started writing and recording new songs. I think we have a pretty good operating rhythm right now of putting out an album every second year or so,” he said from his home in Germany, where he is also an in-demand vocal instructor.
“And we like to wait until we get back from the road to write because it’s so busy when we’re on tour. We don’t have the time to just jam things out because we are a still a pretty small operation and we have to do sound checks and promo and get to the shows and also make sure we’re getting rest and taking care of ourselves. As soon as we get home and catch our breath, then we have time to compose and really sit and think about what we want to do.”
And what Scheepers, band co-founder and bassist Mat Sinner, long-time guitarist Tom Naumann, guitarist Alex Beyrodt, lead guitar/keyboardist Magnus Karlsson and new drummer (as of 2015) Francesco Jovino decided to do was do a little experimentation with Rulebreaker, trying to stretch as both musicians and songwriters.
“We definitely don’t follow any formulas. Our approach to this album was to keep the playing and the compositions to a very high quality,” Scheepers said.
The epic 11-minute song We Walk Without Fear see the band pushing the envelope of their particular brand of metal into progressive territory, with intricate instrumental passages and multiple musical themes and sections.
“It’s one of my favourite tracks on the album and it’s amazing to hear all that is going on in that song. You can really sit back and have an amazing ride and just imagine your won futuristic story behind it,” said Scheepers, who added that the band also created a slower-tempo song, reminiscent of an old-school power ballad, called The Sky is Burning.
“We didn’t set out to do something like this; it just came up in the regular composition process. Magnus had the idea for it at first and then I put my input into it and the idea was to just make it sound as good as possible – we didn’t care if it was a slower tempo song; we just wanted it to be very good. I really like the vibe of the change in the middle verse that leads a really melodic chorus. I think it’s a great song.”
Of course there is still the requisite number of incendiary, powerful, frenetic and intense hard rockers on Rulebreaker that Primal Fear has built its legacy on. The anthemic title track and the album’s opening song Angels of Mercy are definite foot stompers and head banging delights, while In Metal We Trust is an ode to loyal heavy metal fans all over the world.
“There are always some critics of metal who say we talk too much about metal in our songs. But, hey, we are addicted to this music – absolutely. We love it. We are fans of this music first and foremost and we love songs about metal music and the power of metal,” he said.
Scheepers said he and his bandmates have worked hard to hone their craft as songwriters individually and as a collective entity, and believes the work on Rulebreaker sees this creative process hitting its stride.
“Mat and Magnus have been doing a lot of writing together while working on other projects, so they have become a really good team as composers. So a lot of songs come together when they are working with one another. And then Tommy and Alex also make great contributions. Mat and I have been writing together for so long we really work well too and really challenge one another,” he explained.
“Basically, we tend to do the melody and lyrics at the same time because you need to work on things like rhyming and making sure the words fit the melody. I usually have a certain rhyme in my head when I am starting and finding the rhyme that fits a specific melody is a real journey. And also because we are writing in English we sometimes bring in dictionaries to make sure we are right and that what I am saying makes sense.”
Empowerment, self-reliance and independent thinking are core lyrical themes for a lot of hard rock and metal bands, and Primal Fear is no different. What sets this group apart is that these themes and tones are couched in lyrics that are sometimes fantastical, futuristic and open to the creative interpretation of the individual listener.
“We are always describing different stories and situations which are maybe more science fiction or about the warrior mythology. It’s like a fantasy parallel to what’s going on in your real life every day. You always have your struggles and your fights but we want people to not be afraid to stand up for themselves and continue doing what they dream of doing and to not back down: just go for it and don’t let other people talk you out of it.”
While Primal Fear’s primary territory has been Europe for most of the past 15 or so years, the band has toured North and South America as well as the Far East in the past, and is planning on hitting as many markets as they can on the forthcoming Rulebreaker tour.
“South America is a place we want to get back to soon because the fans there are really into music. They are so enthusiastic. And we love touring North America because there are lots of hard rock and metal fans there too. Our tour starts in Barcelona, Spain on Feb. 5 and we’re touring Europe for nearly a month. Then we’re taking a short break because we all have some other projects. I am producing a vocalist here in Germany for example. Then we’re off to North America at the end of April until the beginning of June, which is a pretty long tour of North America for us. We have four days off after that and then we head back to Europe and then Japan,” he said, adding they are also working on confirming dates in Australia (where Primal Fear has never played) as well as a return to South America.
On the band’s website, under Scheepers’ bio page it lists Vancouver as his favourite city, and there’s no doubt he is an unabashed fan of the Canadian west coast.
“We mixed our Seven Seals album there in 2005 in and we all loved downtown Vancouver. I liked that we were right by the sea, but you could also go to the mountains in a few minutes. You can have everything there in Vancouver, it’s a beautiful city. And we are going to be there on May 9. We’re also going to be in Montreal (May 30), Quebec City (May 31) and then our last date on that tour is in Toronto at the MOD Club on June. 1. We’re looking forward to coming back to Canada for sure,” he said.
For more information on the band, visit www.primalfear.de.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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