Ask me to compose a list with the best Metal albums for 2018 and you are almost certainly guaranteed to find Primal Fear’s latest studio effort “Apocalypse” somewhere near the very top.
It may be a good two decades since the German metallers first presented the world with their debut same-titled release, however, the ten compositions (eleven, if you include the Intro) which put together their latest magnum opus prove, without a shadow of doubt, that the Germans are currently going through what can only be described as their second youth.
Being stationed in beautiful Belgium at the same period that the German sextet (quintet on stage) is touring Europe meant that I would be given the opportunity to see some of these beautiful new songs performed on a live setting, so having to catch a bus for a one-and-a-half-hour trip towards what really looked like the middle of nowhere was a minor obstacle to deal with.
Biebob is a cozy little club located at the north/east part of the country – a club that certainly proved to be a very hospitable environment, not only for the quite popular headliners but for the two supporting acts as well, the first of which was a French classic Heavy Metal quartet Existence.
Full of youthful energy and armed with tons of catchy riffs and sing-along melodies, the Clermont-based noisemakers won many people over with their Maiden-inspired music and fulfilled their role of warming up the Belgian crowd beyond all expectations.
First formed in the mid-70s and currently going through their fifth incarnation, Riot V are an interesting case of a band with a very loyal following that features no original/founding member in its line-up. To dismiss them as a ‘tribute act’, however, would be a massive mistake as not only are they still capable of recording good quality music but most importantly because, on a live environment, they really are a force to be reckoned with!
Opening their set with the galloping riffs of “Victory” was an ingenious move, as it enabled current vocalist Todd Michael Hall to showcase his impressive vocal range from the off. Unbelievably tight, well-coordinated and eager to leave their mark, the New Yorkers provided the first highlight of their show quite early on in the shape of “Flight Of The Warrior” while Mike Flyntz’s flamboyant solo during “Johnny’s Back” left a few of us staring towards the stage in sheer amazement.
“Caught In The Witches Eye”, “Bloodstreets”, “Take Me Back”, “Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign” …every one of these tracks was more expertly performed than the other, however it was the triumvirate of “Swords And Tequila/Warrior/Thundersteel” which really got the crowd dancing to the tunes of the band’s ‘fiddle’, offering a grandiose ending to a somewhat short but truly inspiring performance.
On top of promoting their latest release “Apocalypse”, Primal Fear were this year celebrating their twentieth anniversary and they opted to do so in style! Putting together a fifteen-track set filled with fan favorites and presenting it in a truly professional manner, meaning a blistering performance on the part of the band supported by an array impressive pyrotechnic effects, added an extra touch of character in these already impressive surroundings.
Built on a massive Heavy Metal riff, “Final Embrace” made the band’s intentions known from the word ‘go’ and by the time the first few notes of the gigantic opus “Chainbreaker” were performed there was not a single person left in doubt as per which band was really calling the shots on this warm autumn night. Impressed by this sheer metal attack, most Belgians were more than inclined to sing along to the melodies of “Blood, Sweat & Fear” or head bang to the rhythms of either “Face The Emptiness” or “Hounds Of Justice”.
Massively built but truthfully wearing his heart on his sleeve, Ralph Scheepers kept all eyes firmly set on him, performing his quite demanding vocal parts with surgical precision, especially during “The Ritual” and its follow up “Under Your Spell”, leaving the guitar duet of Alex Beyrodt/Tom Naumann to display its enviable chemistry during the flamboyant solo sessions of the Helloween-influenced “Nuclear Fire”.
The remaining of the band’s main set featured compositions of equally great importance, chief among them the absolutely sensational “King Of Madness” and the anthemic “Metal Is Forever” – the latter being one of the band’s trademark songs. In countries as organized as Belgium curfews are strictly observed so an encore was always going to be a short affair. Still, both the power ballad “Fighting The Darkness” and the mid-tempo, riff-laden monster “Running In The Dust” offered the band’s loyal fans a few more memories to look back to with their mind’s eye in the months to come.
Having to make a return one-and-a-half-hour bus trip to Antwerp after what was a really long day would normally be a massive anti-climax, however, I was so positively charged by the performances of all the bands involved that I managed to get home in what felt like no time and, most importantly, with a massive smile on my face. Now that is much more than anyone could really ask for on a Friday night, don’t you agree?
Review and photos by Ioannis (John) Stefanis
Riot V Set List: Victory/Flight Of The Warrior/Johnny’s Back/Caught In The Witches Eye/ Bloodstreets/Take Me Back/Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign/Swords And Tequila/Warrior/Thundersteel/Outro Heaven And Hell (Black Sabbath track)
Primal Fear Set List: Final Embrace/Chainbreaker/Blood, Sweat & Fear/Face The Emptiness/Hounds Of Justice/The Ritual/Under Your Spell/Nuclear Fire/Eye Of The Storm/King Of Madness/The End Is Near/When Death Comes Knocking/Metal Is Forever/ Encore: Fighting The Darkness/Running In The Dust/
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