Primal Fear - Devil's Ground

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Nuclear Blast
Catalog Number: NB 1225-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:13:00

I've been listening to this CD off and on since it was first released last year (367 days ago (in the US), as I write this, to be exact). Not because, I'm afraid, I've become addicted to it, but because other titles sparked a review much more quickly, and kept pushing this aside. Not that this is leading me to rave about an overlooked gem. I get the feeling that Devil's Ground is pretty much a more-of-the-same kind of album from these heavy metallers. I've not heard anything prior so I've nothing to compare it to in that regard, but as they sound like early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and other like metal bands, you can pretty much expect 80s styled metal. Melodic power metal - thundering, explosive power metal. Seemingly simple on the surface, though of course there's stuff going on underneath.

Thus, you'll find clich?s here. I'll just give you the track titles; you can fill in the rest: "Metal Is Forever" and "In Metal." Yes, yes, we know, we know, ho-hum. Actually, the first of the two has something to say - that metal unites people around the world. I think it's probably true, and true for most forms of music. And yes, when I say they are about something, I'm not talking grand concepts full of philosophy and erudition, which actually, in a way, makes them a bit different from IM, given IM's frequent literature-influenced tracks ("Rime Of The Ancient Mariner," for instance).

I like the way "Suicide And Mania" sounds with a hummable, singable, memorable chorus, a track about being so out of your mind that suicide seems an only option. Though uh, if the suicide comes first, there's no mania... or is that in the afterlife? "Visions Of Fate" is a pep talk - go out there and make things happen! "Sacred Illusion" (another track with a chorus that gets stuck in the head) is sort of a Orwellian view of government trying to control the protagonists thoughts (think there might be some correlation between that and "Suicide And Mania"?). "In Metal" is what seems like a sci-fi tale, including the lyric: "Only frightened faces / On the first wave of attack / The moment of truth / And the city's turning red / Metal creatures from far away / Came to prove the evidence..." Cylons? Oh, probably not, but having become hooked on the new Battlestar Galactica (and remembering well the original series), this is what came to mind. That sci-fi element continues in "Colony 13."

Vocalist Ralf Scheepers is a screamer - well, sometimes a screamer; not always and mostly not. I prefer his voice when he isn't screaming, so I'm glad it's not often... or at least the amount is okay with me and that which isn't, is small. "Sea Of Flames" is where he gets going... not too high pitched, fortunately (except towards the end), but... This is barnstormer of a track, too, going by at a heart-racing pace. And Ralf howls to being the speedy, somehow even speedier than "Sea...," "Sacred Illusion." Here Ralf can go from near growl (not deathly, don't worry) to high pitched scream on a dime. And that the band can keep up and keep with each other... well, let's forget that everything's possible in the studio with the right kinda of mixing... the playing is tight, and these fellas can squeal around a corner at full speed with out clipping the corner or losing control of the vehicle... Yes, let's call them the classic sports car of metal bands. It ain't new, but there's a reason people keep driving it.

They follow "Sea..." up with the moodier, darker, "The Healer" - nice shimmery percussion from Randy Bass - a drummer that uses the whole kit - that contrasts from the dark throbbing from the drums and Mat Sinner's bass. On the one hand, the pace of this piece is a bit plodding, perhaps so because as the vocals slowly evolve, the underlying instrumentation is moving much more quickly. But... then again, I like this slow-burn feel this piece has, sort of balladic. Strings and a chorus just fill out this piece. "Sacred..." is followed by the Priest like, throaty, chugging "In Metal," showing us a darkened future (I think of the Terminator films). "Soulchaser" (though it sounds like "So Satan" ) is one part country-metal, one part what you'd expect here. You'd have to listen to the rhythm to know what I mean.

Guitars (Tom Naumann, back after a 3 year absence, and Stefan Leibing, who also plays keys, are everywhere, typical of this style; guitars scream, some times flicking out from the melody like solar flares. A nice solo on the dark "Visions Of Fate" opens the piece and some nice duo work features here, too. A track where you can tell there are twin guitars that intertwine nicely.

Though "Wings Of Desire" has a clich? title, the track isn't really a ballad. It's slower tempo-ed than other tracks, but I find it a very dense track; tight enough to be constricting. And it's not quite as direct as some of the other power numbers. It shows variety, but I'm not entirely convinced by it.

The title track is a doomladen spoken word piece about hell ? who's going or is there... and just a reminder about how close it is (you know, the center of the Earth). Would be an interesting start to a concept album ... but here it just seems ... out of context. Maybe it'd make sense if I were a long time fan, I don't know.

Well... all in all its an appealing melodic power metal release that is entertaining and well done performance wise. I like it. I don't love it, but I like it.

Metal Is Forever / Suicide And Mania / Visions Of Fate / Sea Of Flames / The Healer / Sacred Illusion / In Metal / Soulchaser / Colony 13 / Wings Of Desire / Heart Of A Brave / Devil's Ground

Ralf Scheepers - lead vocals
Mat Sinner - bass, vocals
Stefan Leibing - guitars, keyboards
Tom Naumann - guitars
Randy Black - drums and percussion

Primal Fear (1998)
Jaws Of Death (1999)
Nuclear Fire (2001)
Black Sun (2002)
Devil's Ground (2004)

Genre: Traditional Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 27th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 953
Language: english


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