Primal Fear + Riot V

Thursday 11th October

The Dome, Tufnell Park, London

Last Thursday I was in Baden-Wurttemberg strolling around the breathtaking Black Forest; this Thursday Baden-Wurttemberg came to London in the shape of Primal Fear. These long-established Metal commandos, initially all from the same area of South West Germany, were here to play their unique blend of the genre at the Dome in Tufnell Park. This remarkable coincidence could only be a portent, a psychic signal to make my way to the Dome to see if Primal Fear’s music could match the staggering natural splendour of their homeland. Well, that was my excuse, and I stuck with it as I headed to the Dome on Thursday for another evening of explosive live music.



First on stage were New Yorkers Riot V, initially formed as Riot way back in 1975, when they were one of the innovators of Metal music in America. Although some personnel changes are to be expected over 43 years, Riot has experienced more than most, featuring a total of 25 musicians over this period. The band has also suffered more tragedy than most, with the deaths of two ex-members, vocalists Rhett Forrester and Guy Speranza, and, early in 2012, that of their only surviving founder member, lead guitarist Mark Reale, mid-tour, from complications relating to Crohn’s disease. After completing the tour without Mark, the band had a two year break and when it reformed, out of respect to Mark, it was renamed Riot V. The new line up remained true to Riot’s legacy, fallen band mates and their fans. So much so that, in January this year, Riot was inducted into the prestigious Hall of Heavy Metal History. So far Riot V has shown more stability than Riot’s previous incarnations with a consistent line-up, unchanged after nearly five years: Todd Michael Hall (lead vocals), Mike Flyntz (lead guitar), Nick Lee (rhythm guitar), Don Van Stavern (bass) and Frank Gilchreist (drums).



Riot V’s set was selected from across their huge 43 year back catalogue - in one sense they played as a tribute band to their previous incarnations. However, the current tour is partly to promote their latest album, ‘Armor of Light’, and the set included three songs from the album. Opener ‘Victory’ had clear links to the band’s Metal roots. It allowed Todd to demonstrate his ability to reach, and maintain, high-pitched notes as well as featuring Melodic guitar leads, backed by power Metal drumming. ‘Caught in the Witch’s Eye’ reflected the band’s Hard Rock influences and ‘Angel’s Thunder, Devil’s Reign’ was a tribute to the Heavy Metal lifestyle. Interspersed with these new tracks were several old favourites, notably ‘Flight of the Warrior’ and ‘Take me Back’. The set finished with three Riot classics that had the audience pounding the air and singing along to every chorus line: ‘Swords and Tequila’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Thundersteel’. Overall, Riot V had played a loud, pulsating set of Melodic Metal, with the skill and professionalism that comes with experience, combined with the enthusiasm of musicians who love what they’re playing.



Next up were headliners Primal Fear, founded in Germany in 1997. Primal Fear’s members have undergone remarkably few changes during its 21 years existence; three of the five band members on stage were in the original line-up: Ralf Scheepers (lead vocals), Tom Naumann (guitar) and Mat Sinner (bass). Relative newcomers Alex Bayrodt (guitar since 2011) and Francesco Jovino (drums since 2015) completed Thursday’s line-up.



As 9pm approached, Primal Fear hit the stage running with an explosion of sound that immediately raised the Dome’s aura to a new level. Ralf Scheepers, sporting a chin-strap style beard, was the last member to take the stage, preceded by a hair-raising screech as the band burst into ‘Final Embrace’, rapidly followed by ‘Chainbreaker’. Both songs were well known: the audience knew exactly when they were expected to clap, punch the air, sing the chorus lines or whatever. Remembering that this is the ‘Apocalypse’ tour, timed to promote the band’s similarly named latest album, five of the next eight songs came from said album. ‘Apocalypse’ maintains Primal Fear’s lyrical traditions of fantasy, religion and political ideals, leaving much to the imagination. Often songs from new albums give the audience a chance to relax, recover and quietly take in the new material - not with Primal Fear who, despite recording thirteen studio albums, have the enviable distinction of never having released a weak one. Starting with the aggressive vocals of ‘Blood, Sweat & Fear’, and continuing all the way through to the Melodic hooks in ‘King of Madness’, the new songs maintained the barrage of riffage and adrenalin-fuelled Metal that characterise the Primal Fear sound. Following the leads from the charismatic Ralf, the crowd were soon joining the chorus lines and rocking with the band. New songs out of the way, the band focused on crowd favourites. ‘Nuclear Fire’ saw Ralf controlling his guitarists like a snake charmer and, by the time ‘Metal is Forever’ was in full swing the atmosphere was electric - including the first proper, heaving, bouncing mosh pit I've seen for a couple of decades. Though, back in the day, I never heard a plea to the moshers from the stage along the lines of “Great to see you enjoying yourselves - but please be careful not to bang into the people around you”!



So, overall, an excellent evening of live entertainment. Riot V’s enthusiastic presentation of Melodic Metal set the scene for a power Metal free-for-all from Primal Fear that shows what five committed, skilful musicians can achieve when coming together to perform music in this bright genre. Ralf’s vocal capacity was complemented by Tom and Alex’s compellling guitars, and all held in place by the sound rhythms from Mat and Francesco. This gave the audience an eclectic evening of Primal Fear’s trademarks: Ralf’s outstanding voice, twin guitar solos, killer riffs and infectious catchy choruses.



Setlists:



Riot V



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



Primal Fear



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

Fighting the Darkness

Running in the Dust



Big IaN

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