Live @ Stage 48 in New York City
On Wednesday April 30, 2014, New York City area had the 10th wettest day on record with almost 5 inches of rain falling. One of my Devil’s Five partners, George Brianka and I got drenched going to and from the concert. But that mattered little as International heavy metal powerhouse Primal Fear was in town and the band from Europe made it all worth it.
After catching the second opening act, New York City’s female fronted Flames of Fury, the metal juggernaut that is Primal Fear came on to blew the opening act off the stage. The difference between the two bands was so vast that there was no comparison, but I’ll still name a few. The instruments in Flames of Fury seemed work against each other, with one guy trying to play over the top of the other, never giving the songs room to breathe. The drums weren’t mixed right and visually there was no coordination amongst the band with the lead guitarist looking like he was constipated or in some kind of pain.
Primal Fear is honestly a heavy metal machine. These five guys are so tight and have so much chemistry that they interact with the audience and you can see that they are having a blast performing. Plus musically Primal Fear is incredibly smart by backing off heaviness at times to give their music much more dimension and texture. When the huge riffs come in, they feel so much more powerful. When the band slows down, when certain instruments stop playing, both of these choices allow the solos to be heard more clearly and when someone rips out a lead section, its impact is so much stronger than everyone always playing fast all the time. I’m sure this mostly comes from professionalism and experience, something Primal Fear has in spades.
I also trace this to Randy Black’s drums, which are nothing short of amazing. He’s a monster behind the kit pounding out furious beats but more importantly constantly mixing up time changes and rhythmic patterns. Because of this, the songs don’t all sound the same (a problem with the opening band). Just watching Black play is astonishing as he sometime plays with each arm crossing over to opposite sides and his ever changing double bass kicks had George & I grooving big-time.
Vocalist Ralf Scheepers is one of the best singers in heavy metal period. What became obvious to me was that Scheepers is in the prime of his life as a front man. His multi-octave voice soared reaching incredibly high notes very few can reach, especially not with his Rob Halford-like inflection and control. Scheepers’ voice is so understandable and melodic that the audience was always singing along with him. Also he did something really cool, I’m not sure was intentional or not. After instrumental passages you could clearly see him counting down (three, two, one) before he came in, which alerted the audience when to join him just at the right time. It was like he was a conductor leading us along.
Plus you can’t help talk about Scheepers stage presence. The man commanded the room. He visibly made an effort to look to every area where audience members were positioned and encourage them to join in the metal celebration. His conviction was so strong and true that it reminded me of the top front men I’ve ever seen; Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio. He’s also built like a German tank and just looks the part as a natural leader.
The band began the night with “Final Embrace” from their 1999 album Jaws of Death and had the crowd rocking from the start.
I was particularly delighted with seeing how much the audience got into the third song “Delivering The Black”, since it is the song we have licensed for our film Devil’s Five. The high octane energy of the title track from their latest album had me banging my head with the rest of the crowd.
The band went through an amazing set list that covered something on almost all their studio albums. I really appreciated how they mixed it up with fast heavy songs, mid-tempo rockers, a ballad and even the ten minute epic “One Night in December” off Delivering The Black.
Something that really struck me about Mat Sinner, besides the huge bass sound he provides, was how his voice augmented the band’s vocal power. It’s not like Scheepers needs any help but he does give Primal Fear an added advantage.
Guitarists Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann, who is an original founding member (filling in for Magnus Karlsson, who couldn’t do the long tour so he can spend more time with his little kids) complimented each other perfectly and reminded me of the great guitar duos in Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. These two guys could both rip it, yet they kept their playing within the songs and never tried to hog the musical space.
After a rousing set, the band was brought out for an encore that consisted of “Unbreakable Pt. 2” and “Running in the Dust.” This left the New York City crowd ecstatic with heavy metal joy. There is something else I have to say and this is important. Though Primal Fear is a heavy metal band who talks about death, darkness and the devil, there’s not speck of negative energy about them. I never sensed any kind of hostile aggression from the audience but rather just unified enthusiasm. In this way, they come across like metal giants Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
After the show, George and I met the band backstage and they couldn’t have been nicer. The band members had no air of arrogance but rather humble appreciation for our interest in using their song in our movie. It capped off a wonderful night that neither one of us is sure to forget.
Absolutely make every effort to see Primal Fear when they hit your town. It’s not every year they come to our continent so join their heavy metal revolution this month:
May 3 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Toronto, Ontario
May 4- Sun
PRIMAL FEAR in Cleveland, Ohio
May 7 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in Lawrence, Kansas
May 8 – Thu
PRIMAL FEAR in Denver, Colorado
May 10 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Seattle, Washington
May 11 – Sun
PRIMAL FEAR in Vancouver, British Columbia
May 12 – Mon
PRIMAL FEAR in Portland, Oregon
May 14 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in San Francisco, California
May 15- Thu
PRIMAL FEAR in Anaheim, California
May 16 – Fri
PRIMAL FEAR in Tempe, Arizona
May 19 – Mon
PRIMAL FEAR in Houston, Texas
May 21 – Wed
PRIMAL FEAR in Atlanta, Georgia
May 23 – Fri
PRIMAL FEAR in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
May 24 – Sat
PRIMAL FEAR in Rochester, New York