Primal Fear has not performed in Zagreb since 2012. The Riot V has never been in Croatia, and the first time I have ever heard about Existance was when they were in the announcement for this tour. Once again, we were dropped from the concert map, so it was time to go to Ljubljana to see this French-American-German mix of Heavy Metal.
The first on the stage was Existance, a new band with an old school approach. Formed in 2008, they belong to the 80s revival movement, and while it’s more common for Swedish bands like Enforcer, Steelwing or Ram to pursue a style like this, these young men come from France. They have two albums under their belt, “Steel Alive” (2014) and “Breaking the Rock” (2016), and just from these titles you can tell what kind of music they play. The band’s half-hour show was very solid with great energy, synced performance and lots of crowd contact. Unfortunately, the hall was almost empty which usually happens when newcomers play, but those who were at the concert might listen to some of their songs at home. We all know the main goal of new bands is – collect more fans!
After them came the Riot V, the main event for many gathered. Though announced as “special guests”, we all know it’s just a fancy word for “support act”. It so happens that the bands originating from the 90s end up being headliners while their support are bands they themselves loved and worshiped growing up. Let us remind ourselves of a similar event last year when Sabaton were headliners and Accept were support. Fair play to Sabaton, but you know, I’m just saying that’s all… Still, all that would be alright with me however it turned out that in both cases, the support was miles better than the headliners.
Riot V gathered more fans than the band before them but it still wasn’t something to brag about, let’s say around 200-ish people. They opened with their latest track “Victory” and they spread out 3 more tracks from the Todd Michael Hall era (“Heart of a Lion” basically a copy-paste of “Flight of the Warrior”, “Angel’s Thunder”, “Devil’s Reign” featuring perhaps the silliest lyrics this year, and lastly “Take Me Back” which was in my opinion the best track off the “Unleash the Fire” album).
Regarding the new era, “End of the World” was left out, which was a shame since it’s a track very dear to me, but I’ll give them a pass. Apart from new stuff, they performed 8 of the more sifnificant ones (4 off “Thundersteel” ) and some lesser known tunes.
So after the opening “Victory”, the crowd was fired up by “Flight of the Warrior”, and with, definite highlights were “Sign of the Crimson Storm” and “Bloodstreets”. Album “The Privilege of Power” was represented by “On Your Knees” and “Black Leather and Glittering Steel”, while DiMeo-era was only represented by “Angel Eyes”. I noticed one thing though, many fans tend to ignore and altogether skip the DiMeo-era stuff, and for them, I absolutely recommend the “Sons of Society” album. Speranza-era featured “Thundersteel” (final song) and preceded by “Warrior”, known and lived by a surprising amount of fans, judging from their reaction and sing-along.
The Forrester-era went missing, which honestly wasn’t surprising, given how those two albums are neither known nor liked all that much. Still, it would have been a nice touch since the band is no longer known as Riot, but rather Riot V (Hall is officially the band’s fifth vocalist), and thus provide an homage to all past vocalists. Riot V did, towards the end, completely get the crowd pumped up, which culminated with “Thundersteel”, causing really loud “we want more” and “Riot, Riot, Riot” chants.
Sadly, it was not meant to be, the organizers decided against fitting in one more song (as it turned out, it would have been “Road Racin'”, as I later found out from the band’s bass player Don Van Stavern). Regardless, the 12 song set was really well performed, to the delight of old and new fans, and people who have become fans immediately afterwards.
Although I previously wrote some kind of tirade against Primal Fear, actually I love them. I’ve seen them live a lot of times so I know what to expect – band in the good mood, few hits that have to played every time, few new songs, one or maybe two ballads, an hour and a half long play and everyone goes home happy.
The band started right on time and they opened it to my delight with the song “Final Embrace”, with an almost 20-year-old song, an overwhelming hit. They continued with the new song “Blood, Sweat & Fear”, but in my opinion nothing would have been lost if they didn’t play it. In retrospect, already the third song “Face The Emptiness” seemed like the peak of the concert.
I have a love-hate relationship with “New Religion” album. That’s because when I started listening to the band, their current album was “Seven Seals” and in the moment they have released “New Religion” album it was THE NEW ONE so every album after that was “The new Primal Fear”. To make things better, that timeline even makes sense because albums since “Seven Seals” were released via Nuclear Blast and after “New Religion” albums were released via Frontiers Records, so I am of a bit radical thinking that the band began to shift towards modern sound (except maybe “Unbreakable” album which is really old school), and the current one “Apocalypse” is (the current) zenith of the new modern Primal Fear.
But to get back to “New Religion”. When the album came out, maybe just because it was a new one, It was excellent. I’ve listened to this album a couple of years so I began to hate it. Recently, before the concert I had to listen to it again and I really liked it, nostalgia was obviously a key factor here.
All in all, to finish the digression – “Face the Emptiness” was the highlight of the concert. I will explain why in two sentences. By the end of the concert they played only ten songs and a drum solo, so one more digression can be made about how the drum solos for 99% of the audience are all the same and unnecessary, and four of these ten songs were from the current album, of which only “The Ritual” is worth any attention, and three songs from the previous two albums “When Death Comes Knocking”, “In Metal We Trust” and “The End is Near”, to make a total of the first six albums, with mentioned “Final Embrace”, they played just “Metal is Forever” and “Nuclear Fire”. The other critical thing was too many ballads on such a short setlist, which means that of the thirteen songs three were ballads – “When Death Comes Knocking” (7 minutes), “Eye of the Storm” (8 minutes) and “Fighting the Darkness” (9 minutes) which they played on bis.
In summary, the band was a shambles really, disinclination, even by Scheepers, the unbearable shortness of the concert, of which almost half hour was dedicated to ballads, it puts this concert on a list of inglorious concerts, one of the worst in the last five or six years for sure. All I wrote in the introduction that I expected wasn’t met, they didn’t play “Chainbreaker” at least and that is inadmissible. The only way to make it up is to announce at the end of this tour that they are going on a new one with two hour old school setlist. Yeah, dream on!