Despite being rightfully known as one of the most powerful voices in modern metal, Germany’s Ralf Scheepers will also go down in history as one of the men who failed in their quest to replace Rob Halford as the voice of Judas Priest. Listening to Scheepers, his excellent solo outing, you can see why Glenn Tipton and KK Downing had to turn ol’ Ralfy boy down after his audition.
Y’see, whilst the eventual winner Ripper Owens (who, ironically guests on this here elpee in a sing off with Scheepers on the track Remission of Sin that is, frankly, ludicrous yet crushingly excellent at the same time) could ‘sing the shit’ out of the Priest canon, he still had some character of his own in his pipes. There are moments, however, on this album, where you’d absolutely swear –possibly even throwing your parents’ house into the pot if you were a betting man- that it was the Metal God himself at the mic – you can see why those in charge of decision making at Priest HQ may have felt the similarity was just too close for comfort.
Of course, in the context of Scheepers the album this is no bad thing. The overall feel here is of Painkiller-era Priest being fused with, oohh, let’s say the last Accept album for the sake of argument, and the result is absolutely satisfying.
After a relentless pounding from the first three tracks – all state of the art modern metal without exception – the first opportunity you get to sit back and realise how good Scheepers is comes in the middle of the chorus to The Fall, a monstrous slab of melodic, brooding, mid-paced metal that wouldn’t be out of place on any Priest album from Screaming for Vengeance to Painkiller – it’s that good.
Scheepers keeps, um, delivering the goods with the next track, the epic and suitably portentious Doomsday, and it’s at this point you’re starting to realise that Scheepers is no mere tossed-off side project, something to salve the ego of its progenitor whilst not really being anything other than a bagatelle in the wider world. This is the real deal, an album to stand up there with anything Ralf has been associated with in the past, an album that stands or falls not just on the man’s name but more importantly on the effortless brilliance contained within its grooves.
This won’t be for everyone – how could it be?- but if you can’t resist metal like it used to be performed and produced to a 21st century sheen, then, even at this early stage of the year, you’ll struggle to hear much better than this in 2011. Spine-tingling.
Scheepers' self-titled release is out on 17 February, on Frontiers/Riot.