|Tim 'Ripper' Owens is without doubt among the most important metal vocalists of the past ten years. When he succeeded Rob Halford, joining Judas Priest in May 1996, the press rubbed their eyes, surprised as well as impressed: Owens had previously been a fairly unknown quantity to international music journalists, but recorded his first Priest album, Jugulator, with more aplomb than even insiders had expected.
Following successful tours with the British metal legends, the strong studio recording, Demolition (2001), and the live recordings, Meltdown - 98 Live (1998) and Live In London (2003), Halford's return put an end to Owens' stint with Judas Priest. More or less immediately, he was enlisted by Jon Schaffer to team up with Iced Earth and sang on The Glorious Burdon in spring 2004. Yet there was never any doubt in Owens' mind that he wanted to release an album featuring his own material as soon as possible.
He is now about to carry out his ambitious plan with Beyond Fear, the debut by his same-named new band, due to be released on Steamhammer/SPV on May 8, 2006 (Germany: May 5, North America: May 9). "I didn't feel like a solo recording, I'd much rather perform my songs with a permanent band. That's how Beyond Fear came about."
Beyond Fear consist of Tim 'Ripper' Owens (vocals), John Comprix (rhythm & lead guitar), Dwane Bihary (rhythm guitar), Dennis Hayes (bass) and Eric Elkins (drums). "I've known Dennis since my time with Winter's Bane, before he went on to play with Seven Witches," Owens introduces his fellow band members. "I've also known John for a few years. He brought Dwane and Eric into the band, two friends who live close by and fulfil our idea of musicians who play an aggressive style."
The album consists of fourteen haunting metal numbers, which, according to Owens, "show unmistakably where my musical roots lie: in the classic heavy metal of the Eighties. However, I've transported that traditional metal style into the present, lending it its own touch."
Ripper Owens composed seven of the fourteen tracks on Beyond Fear, the remaining seven were penned together with guitarist John Comprix and complement Owens material perfectly. "There's a whole number of tracks that I'm really proud of," comments Owens, referring to songs such as 'Save Me,' 'Coming At You' and 'My Last Words' in particular, which he wrote himself on guitar. "I may not be a wonderful guitarist," he confesses, "but I'm capable of working out my musical ideas on the guitar to such an extent that people like them."
In terms of lyrics, Owens has succeeded in landing an instant classic in 'Dreams Come True,' describing himself and his life so far. 'Scream Machine', on the other hand, is a title that continues the Priest tradition of martial metal lyrics.
"It's about a metal machine, a metal monster, and shows where my influences come from. This number is in the style of albums such as Painkiller and would in my opinion also have suited Jugulator. It was the last track I composed for Beyond Fear." Remains 'And … You Will Die', which, according to Owens, "reflects the stylistic direction of the album more than any other song. There are high vocals, but also passages sung in deep voices, plus haunting guitars with an unmistakeable metal orientation."
The debut was recorded at the legendary Morrisound studios in Tampa, Florida, under the direction of producer Jim Morris - a definite quality feature when it comes to the album's sound and dynamics, particularly as Morris understood and translated the compositional concept perfectly.
"I've matured, especially in terms of my songwriting," Owens analyses the past decade. "I compose songs that the fans understand and that they can shake their hair to. I've always been a great fan of the Black Sabbath line-up featuring Ronnie James Dio, and I loved Priest, notably in their British Steel era. Both bands delivered their masterpieces in those days, records that are straightforward without sounding overly complicated and go directly to the bloodstream. That's precisely the effect I wanted to create with Beyond Fear."