Well, it is really hard to even start this review. After the pandemic madness and the personal problems within the band (I really hope Mat Sinner is finally on the steady path to full recovery and can’t wait to see him on stage soon), the change of labels also came with an expectation of a new beginning of sorts. We’ve been waiting three years for a new Primal Fear album and after the excellent Metal Commando, the logical question would be if the band has managed to live up to its quality. The answer, unfortunately, is “no”.
You know the band – they’ve been here for a quarter of a century and while not all of their albums are masterpieces, the Germans have been reliable and consistent in delivering good old classic heavy metal. So where is the problem with Code Red you might rightfully ask? Let’s start with the most obvious one – it just doesn’t contain enough catchy and memorable songs. See, when you have some well-respected musicians, who have proven so many times before that they are more than capable to deliver, then come the expectations. Primal Fear is a band with a stellar line-up and what I keep failing to understand is – why do you enter the studio when you don’t have enough good material? After all, album sales are not critical nowadays, in contrast to live gigs. Label pressure? Maybe.
We have the typical, but recycled to death mid-tempo uplifting opener Another Hero, the mid-tempo “have I heard that riff before” Deep In The Night and The World Is On Fire, the mid-tempo, happy-sounding Play A Song, the mid-tempo plodder Fearless…. you know where I’m going here. The choruses are totally uninspired and just follow the main riff. Steelmelter could be a leftover (deservedly so) from the latest Judas Priest album and Raged By Pain has a great opening patch of riffs, which are totally ruined by the oh-so-boring verses and chorus. I have to be clear in what I am trying to say – imagine if all Primal Fear albums so far have been uploaded to an AI software with the task to have them as a base to create a new album. The result could easily be Code Red. Did I mention that there isn’t a single solo with a memorable melody or structure? Once again, I have to stress that I know these guys are capable of so much more. Has it been lack of inspiration? Was it the problems and stress with the Mat Sinner scare? Who knows.
The only two songs that made me tap a foot and shake a head were the fastest track Cancel Culture (but, wait… is that a recycled New Rise riff? Hmm…) and the good, but not spectacular ballad Forever. It’s a shame. While I am sure the diehards will still find something to like on Code Red, I don’t want that Primal Fear. I want my Primal Fear back. And it better be soon.
Code Red is out on September 1st via Atomic Fire Records and you can pre-order it from HERE