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Rulebreaker: Primal Fear Do Something

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Calling your album Rulebreaker in 2016 seems quaint. I mean, Judas Priest have been breaking the damn law for well over three decades (I’ve seen the surveillance footage of them stealing those gold records from the bank with their electric guitars), and as recently as two years ago escalated to a full-on rebellion of souls. Ignoring a “Please Don’t Walk on the Grass” sign or using the headphones at the CD store for longer than five minutes feels like a pretty big step back.

But then, Primal Fear have never exactly broken new ground, have they? They’ve been an unambitious lot since their formation in 1997, content to eke out a career playing the music they love in daytime slots at big European metal fests. Take a lot of Painkiller-era Judas Priest, a dash of Accept, a little Hammerfall heft, and you have the mean average heavy metal act. It’s hard to imagine anyone citing them as their favorite band.

As easy as it is to lob jokes at them, though, they absolutely nail what they set out to achieve (even if it isn’t much). If you want traditional power metal, you will not be disappointed. Ralf Scheepers hits those high notes better than Rob Halford himself does these days. Mat Sinner’s production makes it sound burly and clean like power metal nerds want. Everyone else in the band executes their tasks with the highest degree of professionalism. They deliver songs about metal and the apocalypse and being bad ass exactly the way you’d expect them to be delivered, with the requisite anthemic choruses and guitar hooks. It’s just… this has no reason to exist. As far as I know, it may not. I will not remember a single song tomorrow.

I don’t know. This album honestly kind of defeats me. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just there. It’s the metal equivalent of white noise. It may as well come in a blank sleeve with the word “metal” stamped on it. As noted, even the album title sounds totally indifferent to the whole thing. I’m glad the band gets to do what they’re passionate about. I can just see no reason to listen to it.

Primal Fear’s Rulebreaker comes out January 29 on Frontiers.  You can listen to the title track here and buy the album here, I guess.

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