Primal Fear is one of many power metal bands that seems incapable of slowing down. “Rulebreaker” is their 11th release, and much like the last couple of records, it shows the band at their best. The sheer efficiency with which they knock out pounding metal anthems is impressive, and this album is no exception. In fact, the consistency of this record is one of its greatest strengths. You can pick just about any track on the album and it is capable of being either the lead-off song, or the single (granted, the band put out 5 songs before the album came out, so I suppose that speaks to their faith in the record). The best example of this is the song that should have kicked things off: “Constant Heart”. This is probably the fastest track, and features devastating, thrashy riffs, not unlike “Rebel Faction” from the band’s previous record.
“Rulebreaker” has a number of songs that lean towards Primal Fear’s more mid-paced, rocking, and anthemic side. Tunes like “Angels of Mercy”, “The End Is Near”, “Rulebreaker”, and “The Devil In Me” are by no means the band’s speediest work, but the riffs are eternally heavy. These songs put the focus on the ageless wonder Ralf Scheepers, who’s vocals sound even better here than they ever have. This is best on display in the aforementioned “The End Is Near”, where he belts out numerous wickedly piercing screams in the chorus. His vocal talents drive every single song, no matter how good the riffs or melodies may otherwise be. Admittedly, I find the songwriting on “Rulebreaker” to be a little less memorable than “Delivering The Black”, but I enjoy the records equally simply because Scheepers’ vocal melodies are still catchy beyond belief.
There are a few tracks on “Rulebreaker” that lean towards more standard power metal: “Bullets & Tears”, “In Metal We Trust”, and "At War With The World". Rather than being built around heavy, Priest-esque riffs, these three songs focus on harmonized guitars over top of speedy rhythm work. This proves to be quite effective for Primal Fear since the songs are among the more memorable on the record. Further, “At War With The World” shows off the new triple-axe attack: there is one section with harmonized leads in the song where two guitarists hold the final note of the harmony, and then the third guitar comes in and shreds over top of their sustained note. This is something that Primal Fear should do more often, as it is a luxury that few other bands would be able to recreate live, and it is incredibly effective. It’s worth pointing out, however, that just because the remaining songs take a different approach doesn’t mean they’re devoid of harmonized guitars. The title track is almost overflowing with fantastic dual-leads, and "The Devil In Me" likewise features plenty of guitars playing in unison.
The centerpiece of this record is “We Walk Without Fear” which is filled with highlights. At nearly 11 minutes, this is the epic on the album. The intro builds the atmosphere with plenty of symphonic goodness, but this song gets by on sheer ambition alone. The riffs sound just a little bit more inspired than those on the rest of the record, as does Scheepers’ vocal performance. The verses start off a bit tame, but as with many great songs, they are simply building up to the inimitable chorus.
From start to finish, “Rulebreaker” is another Primal Fear opus. Even though the early work from most bands has a youthful vigor that is impossible to recapture, more experienced bands tend to be more focused and concise in their songwriting. In other words, the band knows exactly what they want to accomplish with this album, and every song works towards that goal effectively. The quality may vary slightly amongst their newer albums, but Primal Fear is a well-oiled machine at this point, and “Rulebreaker” is another fantastic addition to their legacy!
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"Bullets & Tears"
"In Metal We Trust"
"We Walk Without Fear"
4.6/5 or 92%.
Written by Scott