PRIMAL FEAR “Rules Are Made To Be Broken” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

I recall a time when Primal Fear were the new birds on the block. Back in the late 90’s when only they and Hammerfall were holding the flag high for traditional melodic metal. It took some balls to do that back then. It still does now. Since that debut album almost 20 years ago, Primal Fear have been as steady as a rock and have never failed to champion the cause of true heavy metal. 

Primal Fear today is not greatly different than it was at the start. They’re more experienced, sharper edged and more used to dealing with the intricacies of the music business. They’ve jumped from Nuclear Blast Records to Frontiers Records. But the voice of Primal Fear remains Ralf Scheepers…and what a voice it is!

I let that voice tell me about the new PF album “Rulebreaker” and their commitment to the metal creed. Now you can hear it, too. Speak on, Ralf…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Ralf, many thanks for talking to us. “Rulebreaker” is the 10th studio album from Primal Fear. Is this a landmark you thought you’d ever reach when you started in the late 90’s?

RALF SCHEEPERS: Hi, actually it’s our 11th album but I was quite confused for a second, too!  We never think about things that way and of what we will reach. We are living now and we do our music now. No one knows what will be, so you don’t live that way of what could be in the future. We are always focusing on doing our best and we will do that for the future too.

WC: “Rulebreaker” is straight up traditional heavy metal in the Primal Fear tradition. What’s the meaning behind the “rulebreaker” title?

RS: No big meaning, just a title of a song on the album which describes a modern warrior who is taking no prisoners. Which doesn’t mean he is killing people, it’s just a synonym for being a tough dude who doesn’t care what other people think and walks his own way.

WC: You’ve been at the lead vocal business for a long time. Do you approach it the same way now as when you started or have you changed how you use your voice over the years?

RS: Oh yes I do…. I warm up myself more properly than I did when I was younger and since I’m a vocal teacher I tend to do the same exercises that I tell my students. So I try to be more focused on using my chords in a right way but then again when you do it live there is so much adrenalin that I easily forget it sometimes and I belt my heart out...

WC: “Rulebreaker” is the second time  you’ve worked with Jacob Hansen as producer. What’s special about your relationship with him and will it continue on future albums?

RS: I have to correct you here. Mat is the producer (together with Magnus and me) and Jacob is a fantastic sound engineer who is responsible for this massive powerful sound on this album. As we have been recording also the drums in his studio in Denmark this time, he was involved quite early on that album.

WC:Is there anything different about the way “Rulebreaker” was recorded compared to past albums or have you established a groove you use on every album?

RS: As mentioned above, this time we have recorded the drums in Denmark at the Hansen studios. Everything else is being recorded in the same way as the previous album. Mat records his bass at home, Magnus, Alex and Tom are recording their guitars at home and I am recording all my vocals at home. I would never change that back to what we had before, without saying it wasn’t good but I am my own biggest critic and I will never release things anymore which I am not 100% satisfied with.

WC: “We Walk Without Fear” is the most ambitious Primal Fear tune ever. What was the origin of this tune and was it intimidating putting it together?

RS: It’s a masterpiece, I agree! Mat and Magnus are responsible for that one and it continues the direction of what we did on “Delivering The Black” with “One Night in December”. I love it!!!

WC: Do you guys have discussions or arguments about how far you can experiment with the Primal Fear sound? Is there any disagreement about what would be acceptable for Primal Fear?

RS: That’s pretty much an internal and democratic process. We wouldn’t release anything which we are not 100% satisfied with. But one thing is for sure, you will never find any rap or house music on a Primal Fear album! 

WC: Is there one particular favorite you have on “Rulebreaker” that maybe strikes more of a chord than other songs?

RS: That’s hard to answer…I really like every track on it! What stands out a bit is “We Walk Without Fear”, “In Metal We Trust” and “The End Is Near”… But of course all the others are my favorite too! 

WC: How would you rate the traditional metal scene in 2016 compared to past years? Are there bands coming up that are inspired by Primal Fear the way you were inspired by Judas Priest?

RS: Good question. As I am so very busy with my own music I almost find no more time to follow what’s coming up new… There are several names like Steel Engraved for instance which are holding the flag of heavy metal high! 

WC: Any live plans for America down the road?

RS: Oh yeah! Check this out:

This time it's 4,5 weeks!!! Yeeeehaaaw! 

WC: Any plans for doing a solo album or another project that would take you in a different direction than Primal Fear?

RS: Not at the moment. This year my focus is on playing live with Primal Fear.

WC: What are some of the non-metal influences you have as a vocalist and musician?

RS: Freddy Mercury, Luciano Pavarotti and many more which I don’t have in mind right now..:-)

WC: It is incredibly tough to make a living in heavy metal. What advice would you give to somebody starting out?

RS: My advice: Always be good in school and find a regular job. Maybe work parallel at the beginning but it’s really hard these days. I have also worked parallel for 27 years in the regular industry.

WC: Is there any musician or band you’d like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to so far?

RS: Yes. That would be KK Downing for sure. Whenever he gets bored and we both have a free schedule, why not!? 

WC: As I write this, people are talking about the passing of Lemmy and David Bowie. Anything to say about these two giants? Did you ever meet them?

RS: They are both legends! And legends never die. My sister and my father are my personal legends and they will live forever in my heart. Those two heroes (Lemmy and David) will live on in the hearts of so many people around the world. They are with us to infinity!

WC: Is it possible for the music scene to produce guys like these any more? I don’t know about Europe but in America the traditional “rock star” seems all but dead.

RS: It’s not the music scene producing these guys, it’s vice versa! The music scene lives from such people, so do the fans! There are quite a few left, I’m sure in the States, too.

WC: How would you sum up Primal Fear’s legacy?

RS: It’s so hard to answer…. I think we have left our scent mark and I’m sure there is so much more to come!

WC: Any last words for the fans?

RS: Yes, check us out on our US tour! We’ll have a beer together!