Let’s face it, many believe that PRIMAL FEAR has gone off the rails with the last two releases. The general consensus is that “Seven Seals” was too overblown and overwrought with the richest of cheeses, and that “New Religion” was at best a mailed-in effort. Well, before I go any further, I have to admit that I enjoyed both releases quite a bit, so my ears may be a bit slanted towards the PRIMAL FEAR camp. However, I think I can fairly say that with the band’s latest platter, “16.6 (Before The Devil Know You’re Dead)”, the German’s have attempted to please fans of both the earlier, more straight-forward material, and fans of the later, more orchestral-minded works. Think of “16.6” as “New Religion Part 2”, if you will, but maybe a bit more focused. Yes my friends, PRIMAL FEAR has chosen their new path and are now hell-bent to stick to it.
Throwing out the short, instrumental intro, “16.6” begins with a trio of tracks that immediately reveals the band’s hand this go ‘round. “Riding The Eagle” is a speedy, double-bass song that would have been right at home on PRIMAL FEAR’s first three albums; the mid-paced stomp of “Six Times Dead (16.6)” would not be out of place on “Black Sun” or “Devil’s Ground” (or a SINNER album, for that matter); and “Black Rain” takes on the “epic” orchestral bent the band dove headfirst into on “Seven Seals”. Basically, all that we’ve come to expect from PRIMAL FEAR over the course of their entire career is found in spades across “16.6”, so anyone in the same boat as myself, who has enjoyed all of the band’s releases, will find much to enjoy about “16.6”. This is mainly attributed to the fact that, regardless of experimentation and external influences, PRIMAL FEAR are at the core a tried and true Heavy Metal band, who know how to write very solid Heavy Metal songs. When you’re naturally good at something, it’s hard to falter. And when the twin guitar attack of Henny Wolter and Magnus Karlsson, powerhouse vocals of Ralf Scheepers, thumping bass of Mat Sinner, and pounding back bone of Randy Black all come together on “16.6”, it’s about as close to pure Heavy/Power Metal bliss as one can get.
Those who feel that PRIMAL FEAR took an unrecoverable turn for the worst on the last two albums still won’t be completely pleased by “16.6”, as there are numerous similarities to those two albums. Whereas fans of “Seven Seals” and “New Religion” can go right ahead and pick up “16.6” blindly and without reservations. The bottom line is that “16.6” does something that many albums struggle to do, which is successfully provide something for everyone.
(Online May 13, 2009)