Interview: Primal Fear’s Ralph Scheepers on New Album, ‘Apocalypse’

Germany’s Primal Fear haven’t graced the Deciblog since they made Adrien Begand’s list of 2014’s best power metal with their album Delivering the Black. This week they will drop their twelfth album, Apocalypse, and with all respect to that record and its successor, Rulebreaker, this new offering totally curb-stomps them. With that in mind, we sat down with vocalist Ralph Scheepers to talk about Apocalpyse, power metal’s surprising return, and… Kenny Chesney?

The choruses and melodies on Apocalypse seem extra catchy this time around. The songwriting is to me maybe a little more immediate – was this intentional?

We’ve composed 25 ideas, riffs & melodies for this album. I think it’s never good to push too much. Songwriting is art, and it came very naturally. We’ve reduced our song list to 20, worked on the details and reduced again to 14 songs. We’ve worked hard on the arrangements and little details, different guitar sound and started to record the drums. This was overall a very peaceful and creative process.

A related question: what makes a good song, to you? What is the essence of good songwriting?

Always a question of your personal taste. If you have 25 songs ready and record 14 songs it’s a team decision. Most important for a metal band like Primal Fear is the main guitar riff and the chorus, mostly supported by the vocals. If we are happy with these two components, we’re working on a cool bridge, guitar solo, harmony changes, different grooves and tempos. It’s always a big challenge to get the picture together. But again, overall a question of your personal taste.

Apocalypse is well-titled, it certainly feels like the end times somedays. Lyrically, what was the focus of the album this time around?

It’s not the time to write 11 love songs. Even during the recording, the news on TV was not so promising that anything will change. We’re living on a wonderful planet with a lot of beautiful places. I’m not sure if the rough language of our politicians, threads, terror, stupidity against proven facts etc. will make us more proud or happy [and it also will not for] the next generation.

If you could change one thing about the history of Primal Fear, what would it be?

There’s just one little thing and too internal for the public. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But overall I’m very happy about the 20 years of the band and even more about the current status of the band. We were never in a better shape on stage, and the three guys who started the band 20 years ago are still together. It’s like a brotherhood.

In America there seems to be a revival of interest in power metal and speed metal, is that also true in your observation as outsiders?

We’ve toured the US constantly since 2009, and the following is getting better and better. It doesn’t matter where we are playing the US — there are always fans who are super excited that we’re coming to their town. That’s wonderful.

After twelve albums and 21 years, Primal Fear has become a staple in the international metal scene – what in your opinion remains to be expressed by the band, both on Apocalypse and in the future?

I think the band is at the peak of their career, and we have a lot of more ideas. It looks like we have the power for another three or four albums and tours. The creativity is still there and the fire is burning. We love our job and we will put all our passion into the next activities. This doesn’t sound like a near retirement.

What are three records you’ve been listening to lately and why?

Good and interesting music …
Kenny Chesney – Songs for the Saints
Jonathan Davis – Black Labyrinth
Greta Van Fleet – From the Fires