I have been a PRIMAL FEAR fan for some time now and I consider the band one of the staples of Power Metal in my collection (along with fellow German’s HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY), but as of lately, the band has been a bit hit or miss with their albums. Many fans tend to agree that the PRIMAL FEAR of recent is missing that edge from their earlier albums that made them such a great listen.
It’s my displeasure to inform all of the dear readers at "The Metal Observer", that despite some well built hype and awesome cover art, “16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead)” is not quite the return to form as many would have hoped. It definitely has its moments of old time glory like on the album opener “Riding The Eagle” which just seethes with PRIMAL FEAR Power Metal glory in its melodies and with Scheepers’ soaring vocals. These songs that bring back the speed and glory do make their appearances (especially towards the end of the album like the killer Speed Metal track “The Exorcist”) but “16.6” mostly keeps to PRIMAL FEAR’s more modern techniques.
Some of these newer sounding songs do strike a nice balance to them, although fans of the older material may find them a blasphemy towards the Power Metal name. The lead off single “Six Times Dead (16.6)” is far more riff heavy then normal, with Scheepers giving us a down tuned version of his vocals, and a solo that does not sound like one a Power Metal band would play. It also makes this song stand out a bit more than normal and gives it a little more punch. These modern sounding songs do that with a band like PRIMAL FEAR and many will not like that. Hell, “Soar” might have come from a DISTURBED album with its riffs and odd melodic pinches and I know that the comparison will be more then enough to upset a few people. It’s true though, and compared to the somewhat lackluster mid-album slump that “16.6” goes into where the band seems to be just going through the motions, then these standout tracks are a nice break.
This brings me to my next point on “16.6”, which is that I think as of lately PRIMAL FEAR tend to spread themselves too thin. This album has a whopping 13 tracks all of substantial length and then consider that there are two more bonus tracks on various other releases. I felt as I listened to the album, even though they keep up a pretty good variety with the ballad-esque “Black Rain” in comparison to the faster tracks like the aggressively melodic “Night After Night”, the band could have pulled two or three songs and made a stronger overall album. Many songs have great parts but weaker parts too and this tends to just bring down the overall quality of the album.
With all that being said, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this album. Like with Eric V., I am still a fan of the band and their work and I still like this album. Yeah, it has its issues as did the last one and the one prior, but they still write pretty solid Power Metal. Perhaps I’m harder on this band because I expect more from them, but that is also a good thing. If you are a PRIMAL FEAR fan then I’m sure you will find something to love about “16.6”, but it’s not going to make a lot of die hard new fans either.
Songs to check out: “Six Times Dead (16.6)”, “The Exorcist”, “Night After Night”.
(Online July 15, 2009)