Primal Fear – May 23, 2014 – Altar Bar, Pittsburgh, PAMonday, 26th May 2014
Road trips are a necessity for lifers of the metal scene, not only for the bands that need to travel around the globe for their fanbase, but the audiences who clamor to see their favorite artists. Months before hitting our shores, veteran German metal band Primal Fear announced a month-long slate of North American tour dates, and the closest one to this reviewer’s Massachusetts home would be New York City. Since I’d never had the chance to visit the home area of our esteemed editor (or witness Primal Fear live), I decided to make the 10-hour trek to Pittsburgh, PA and take in this show at the infamous Altar Bar for a Friday night.
Accompanying me would be local power/thrash vocalist Chris Roy from Vermithrax who was kind enough to be a tour guide through the city’s best live venues for metal (taking me to the Rex Theater, and the Smiling Moose for some barbecue dinner items), as well as Mr. Gehlke himself – happy and jovial to take in this band again. Supporting their fine early 2014 release Delivering the Black, we would be in for a nice 85-minute set from the quintet. Founding member Tom Naumann would be along for this excursion as Magnus Karlsson traded his axe duties for father responsibilities, and he seemed genuinely happy and excited to be there, often singing along in the background.
The banner that normally unfurls their full name could only spell out “Prima Fear” on the smaller Altar Bar stage confines, as drummer Randy Black’s massive kit took up a good part of the background. Hitting the stage at 10:30 pm, opener “Final Embrace” followed by “Alive & on Fire” set the tone early for active tricks of the metal trade, as the band encourages shouting, clapping, fist pumping, and screams in numerous ways. The band would play 15 songs during their set, showcasing all facets of their sound. The high-energy speed numbers like “Nuclear Fire” and “Angel in Black” sat well next to the Priest/Accept like mid-tempo efforts such as “Chainbreaker” and “Battalions of Hate.”
And then there are the more epic-oriented songs, adding a little drama and triggered keyboard orchestration that made “One Night in December,” “Seven Seals” and personal favorite “Fighting the Darkness” very compelling and broaden the scope of what Primal Fear can bring to the table. Guitarist Alex Beyrodt has all the right antics and poses that make him a well revered, accomplished technician, and of course, Ralf Scheepers continues to astound through his multi-octave range and killer screams that rival Rob Halford at his Judas Priest peak years.
Due to the Maryland Death Festival offering some exclusive one-off performances such as a Dark Angel reunion and Candlemass playing these shores for the first time in forever, the turnout at the Altar Bar was a little lower than expected, but the hundred or so in attendance felt classic power metal in their hearts, and didn’t leave disappointed in the slightest. “Metal Is Forever” indeed in the Steel City… and beyond.