Primal Fear - Live In The USA (Frontiers/Riot)

Primal Fear unleash a live barrage of 14 songs, new and old, to North American crowds.

When a band releases a live album, it can normally be one of two things - a raw, in-your-face & accurate representation of their live shows or it can be an uber-polished, over-dub-laden effort. In the case of German power metallers Primal Fear, their newest live effort Live In The USA, comes across as more of the former representation than the latter.

As the title of the album states, Live In The USA was recorded on various stops on the North American leg of the 16.6 world tour including the prestigious ProgPower USA festival in Atlanta.

The 14 tracks featured on the 70 minute album span pretty much every album from their back catalogue in a somewhat "best of" set. It includes the early days in tracks such as Chainbreaker, Battalions Of Hate, Final Embrace, Nuclear Fire and Angel In Black (with drummer Randy Black's thundering drum intro), and more recent cuts including Six Times Dead (16.6) (featuring some quite fine fretwork from guitarists Henny Wolter and Alex Beyrodt); a thundering rendition of Sign Of Fear (which has one of the band's heaviest riffs to date); Killbound, Under The Radar, Riding The Eagle, the epic grandeur of Fighting The Darkness (which features Sister Mary herself - Pamela Moore dueting with frontman Ralf Scheepers); and the suprising addition of an acoustic ballad - Hands Of Time which showcases some of the band member's vocal stylings (especially bassist Mat Sinner who sings most of the song) - which suprisingly fits well considering being put between an onslaught of heavy metal.

One of the only gripes I do have with part of the set, is that the older material sounds quite different compared to the studio and previous live release, from a guitar perspective: it sounds like the older stuff is being performed in a lower tuning than the original versions (maybe that is the nerdy guitarist in me); maybe that is done due to the newer material being tuned lower therefore keeping things consistent or due to logistics.

Some of the older songs come off quite well tuned lower such as Battalions Of Hate and Final Embrace which sound somewhat fresh and new, but a few of them sound a bit off such as Nuclear Fire with its harmonised guitar introduction, sounding quite strange, and Chainbreaker sounds completely different. However to a normal listener's ears, that would not really matter a great deal as the performance is still pretty flawless.

Despite the aforementioned gripe, Live In The USA is a testament to how a live metal CD should be like - comprising solid performances and catchy tunes all performed by an enthusiastic band in front of an equally enthusiastic crowd. If you are like myself and are a fan of the band, do not hesitate in picking this up (and its companion DVD). And if you are new to the band or interested, it is definitely worth checking out.

Primal Fear's Live In The USA is due out late June through Frontiers/Riot.