This episode number 94 of our column will be a journey that will start with the classic power metal of Germany’s Primal Fear, continuing with the prog metal of Oblivion Protocol, to end with the heavy prog of Lark from Poland.
Germany’s Primal Fear are back with “Code red”, their thirteenth studio album, out now via Atomic Fire Records. The career of these Germans has been all about orthodox, high quality power metal and this record, the first work with Mat Sinner after his illness, continues their glorious career. The sounds are power heavy metal to the nth degree, with very well done production, respecting all the canons of the genre. One can openly speak of a renaissance for this record by the Esslingen band, especially with what has happened to Mat who produces the whole thing here and does it very well. The songs are on the level of their best work and nothing is left to chance, you can clearly hear that the band worked very hard to make a work that was not even a millimetre below their past quality standards. The power metal of ‘Code red’ is a staple in an ever boiling world, and the band speaks their mind on various current events such as in ‘Cancel culture’ and other pieces. The work brings Primal Fear, simply one of the biggest names in power heavy, back into the centre of the scene, and listening to this new work of theirs makes it very clear why their 25-year career is far from over.
Oblivion Protocol are a new prog metal band on their recording debut, but they are by no means just any band, quite the contrary. The band was formed on the initiative of keyboardist Richard West of British prog metal legends Threshold, who, having been refused the chance to record the follow-up to 2017’s beautiful ‘Legends of the shires’ on Nuclear Blast Records, decided to go it alone and embarked on this adventure culminating in this ‘The fall of the shires” on Atomic Fire Records. The record is a concept album in the strictest prog metal tradition, and starts from one of the protagonists of the 2017 record to develop the tale further. The Threshold album had left an open ending for the protagonist to choose between possible futures, and here he becomes king and administers the shires, and not everything proceeds for the better indeed. West develops a dystopian world and its difficulties in a very vivid and, above all, probable way, talking about both futuristic things and things already present in our world. The musical writing obviously gives a lot of space to the keyboards, Richard’s natural realm, who also had to make a few changes compared to his previous band, as he also sings and his voice is quite different from Glynn Morgane’s, so he had to up the pop rate, and the result is very good.
Oblivion Protocol’s sound has many elements in common with that of Threshold, only to develop it in a very different way, for an album that is one of the best prog metal releases of recent times. As bandmates, West has chosen such fine musicians as guitarist Ruud Jolie from Within Temptation, bassist Simon Anderson from Darkwater, and on drums Darby Todd, formerly with the master Devin Townsend. To improve it all and to reinforce a friendship that is far beyond music, we find some excellent solos by Threshold guitarist Karl Groom. A very beautiful disc, in perfect balance between prog metal and pop, with remarkable cues and great solidity.
Lark are an interesting Polish prog and hard rock band, whose debut “Antarctica” on Latvian Sliptrick Records is an album that impresses with the depth, variety and beauty of its melodies. First of all, it must be said that the record is not an Antarctica-themed work, it contains many themes and more. The group is composed of experienced musicians, who know what they want to play and what they have in mind they do, without any problems. The ten tracks of the work all have a special and well thought development, the melodies are very good and fit well into the hard rock sound of the band, which has no defined models, except perhaps the Rush hard rock prog route, if we really want to give a starting point. “Antarctica” is a very well balanced album with no weak points, which should be listened to slowly, to fully enjoy all its beauties, at each listening you always find something new and remarkable.