At first glance Apocalypse seems like a fairly dull affair, playing it safe at most every turn. Then I remember that’s how most every Primal Fear album has played out in the past decade or so. The fresh off the presses Apocalypse comes two years after 2016’s Rulebreaker (which definitely played by most of the rules), and for the diehard fans, yay! It’s another Primal Fear album. For everyone else, it’s a Primal Fear album. It’s never bad, never anything short of energetic, high flying power metal, but also, it’s never anything truly outstanding or interesting. Sadly so, when all the members are such deadly musicians in their fields; Mat Sinner blows away regularly in his plenty of other venues, Magnus Karlsson decidedly does better in a melodic hard rock type of style rather than the fleshed out power metal riffage found here, and main man Ralf Scheepers, though his voice has aged well and he seems to sound better with every passing album, made a way bigger impact on another album dealing with the end of times in this year’s A Voice Unheard by Tomorrow’s Outlook.
There are still a few potent spots to shine a little light on, strewn like little sprinkles during the length of the album. The opening is stronger than any of the last few Primal Fear albums, pulling all the levers in opener New Rise and fleshing things out further in massive The Ritual, both showcasing some of the heaviest and strongest riffs the three guitarists have put together, well.. together. This is followed by a slightly more melodic tinge in King Of Madness, still keeping up the strong momentum from the beginning. After that’s when it gets stale and more of the same-old same-old; Supernova seems a bit like a play on what made stellar track The Sky Is Burning from the previous album so great, but misses most of the marks and falls flat, while closing track Cannonball is silly and stupid and equal measure, as well as dragging on beyond the obvious closer in eight minute Eye Of The Storm - another highlight, with its great buildup and theatricality neatly befitting the melodic flair and great use of the triple guitarist schtick.
The guys have three guitarists, but it rarely ever shows. You’ve got your slight guitar licks throughout, but mostly it’s chugging riffage and power chords strewn with Karlsson’s melodic touch. Sometimes with some keys added. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a bad album. It’s definitely got its moments - like I said, not unlike previous Primal Fear albums. But unlike the guys heroes in Judas Priest who pulled all the stops and put out something ripe with firepower this year, Primal Fear just doesn’t do the same. The highlights are there, as usual, but beyond that, the music, the vision just seems stagnated, even though its played with ample conviction - and particularly Scheepers delivers with power aplenty. There’s also a tad too much filler here, and overall Apocalypse manages to be a passable album, if only that. And it’s a little sad from a band that helped define aggressive power metal, and hell, power metal itself.
Standout tracks: New Rise, The Ritual, Eye Of The Storm