Very nearly a mediocre album from a great band

Irish bruisers Primordial have been a constant in the folk/pagan/black metal scene since first arriving with a burst in 1995.

Their debut album Imrama firmly established their take on black metal before mixing in the more traditional instrumentation on follow up A Journey’s End, stretching them into the band many people now know and love.

Generally known for following concepts ,the band have stated that this album doesn’t follow a narrative so isn’t conceptual in nature, but it does follow their typically melancholy and dark music and lyricism focusing in humanity and our need to drive ourselves to destruction in the name of whatever we hold close (technology, religion, societal standing etc.).

Opening to the toll of bells,‘Nail Their Tongues’ sets a typical mood to a Primordial album before the drums come barrelling in and the crunch of the guitars awaken you to what is going on. Unfortunately though it starts to plod along a bit mid paced with little variation to keep you overly focused until the final few minutes where the pace picks up to a bit of the fire and vigour from the band’s early history.

Highlights shouldn’t come too soon on an album, but on this Primordial unleash their best very early with the second track ‘To Hell or The Hangman’ which tells the story of Walter Lynch, hung by his own father in 1493 for killing another man in a jealous rage. Musically there is a drive to it that never makes the usual long run time of a Primordial song feel overwhelming, while vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga puts in a great performance reminiscent of his heroes from the first wave of black metal.

I don’t think this band has it in them to write a bad album, but with this album they do row awfully close to a turning tide. After the initial burst it feels as though they area resting on their laurels a bit, something they haven’t done before. ‘Where Lie the Gods’ is only saved from complete black metal balladry by its slow double kick driven centre piece that adds some much needed bite to the dreary stock in trade.

On ‘Exile Amongst the Ruins’ Primordial reaches for their bombastic best again and almost attaining it, as does follow up ‘Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed’ with its military style percussive introduction, but from here it feels as though they hit cruise control and round the album out with more plodding, overlong material that could have been cut down into something with far more of the kind of impact that Primordial has shown to be capable of. Gone is the experimental nature of their music, and in its place is material that feels lazy.

I don’t write those words lightly. I have always enjoyed the many differences that Primordial have brought with their recorded output and the themes that their music has explored. This album could have been so much more, or perhaps better edited to keep it as interesting as some of their previous material.

Primordial would struggle to make a bad album and aside from the odd trip the first five tracks are great upon repeated listens, but the final three just keep getting skipped over in favour of something else. Very nearly a mediocre one from a band with the kind of great history this group of gentleman have. Enjoy in half bites.

  1. Nail Their Tongues
  2. To Hell or the Hangman
  3. Where Lie the Gods
  4. Exile Amongst the Ruins
  5. Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed
  6. Stolen Years
  7. Sunken Lungs
  8. Last Call