3/3/2004 - Review by: Eric Compton
Primal Fear Devil’s Ground 2004 Nuclear Blast reviewed by: EC
This new Primal Fear record is quite interesting to say the least. For starters, the commando unit has two new members. Tom Naumann makes a triumphant return to camp, replacing guitarist Henny Wolter who spent his days with "Nuclear Fire" and "Black Sun" before leaving for personal reasons. Naumann comes back on board to bring that "old sound" back to the forefront. The other new member is one and only Randy Black, famed Annihilator/Rebellion drummer, who replaces Klaus Sperling behind the kit. Black brings a seasoned veteran approach to this band, and alot of thrash characteristics to a group that have always bordered on the thrash and dash sound, but have never fully committed to that type of sound.
"Devil's Ground" could be the best album to date from these fresh, exhilirating Germans. This one has all the polish and class you would expect from these guys, with "Devil's Ground" getting the full production treatment here, leaving no speakers turned low, instead embarking on a big sound to carry the metal titans through to the next stage of their careers.
I can hear all sorts of different things with this record, with each track coming out fighting a different opponent, whether its one on one with speed metal, thrash, power, or hard rock, Primal Fear do it all, proving they are a jack of all trades, and a master of each. Storm ragers like "Suicide And Mania" bring that Grave Digger sound of old into a new light, catching the flicker a little brighter than before, with Randy Black bringing that Rebellion type warmarch he does so well with his kit, with plenty of HUGE guitar gallops from Naumann and Stefan, reminding me again of Grave Digger, Rage, and old Primal Fear mixed together like tunes of war. "The Healer" conjures memories of Blind Guardian, circa "Somewhere Far Beyond" or "Imaginations From The Other Side". "Sea Of Flames" and "Sacred Illusion" speed by like street racers, with Scheepers playing the part of the proverbial bat out of hell.
The group sticks to their guns with "Metal Is Forever" and "Heart Of A Brave", while "Visions Of Fate" breaknecks at Brainstorm speed, with a huge drum intro that is just bombastic. That ever present Sinner element ranks high with "Soul Chaser", with a slight nod to Pretty Maids as well.
This record is really nothing at all like "Black Sun", nor is it really like "Nuclear Fire" either, wholly in part I'm sure by the absence of Henny Wolter on guitar. Keep in mind that Tom Naumann played guitar in this band on their first two records before Henny took over, and in my opinion, this album could easily be looked at as the album that SHOULD have came before "Nuclear Fire", as "Devil's Ground" sees the same visions as the "ST" and "Jaws Of Death".
All being said, this record packs one helluva punch, walloping me with its rapid pace and signature songwriting. On a side note, I found it interesting that this album is a conceptual piece about the many levels of Hell, but also its really neat to see the tracklisting reversed. If you read the lyrics and the tracklisting, this story starts at the END with the intro, then goes back to track 2 to finish, with the first track simply being a song that doesn't have anything to do with the actual storyline. Pretty innovative, don't you think?
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