It was a long wait for the Primordial
fans, but finally three and a half years after their previous full length effort, April
2011 saw the release of “Redemption
at the Puritan
”. It has proven to be worth waiting for. Only those who were hoping that the new album would bring a change in the typical Primordial
sound, will certainly be disappointed. Those at home with their other post-2002 releases will probably not need more than a minute or so to definitely conclude “Yes, it’s them” when listening to this new Folk Black Metal
jewel from Ireland.
By now the band certainly does not lack a solid fan base, - Indeed it is one of the widest known Black Metal
outfits around -, but that does by no way mean that most of the public here, or even a majority, is well acquainted with their history and music. So first a little bit of recapitulation here.
When the founding members, the MacAmleigh brothers first got together to play music, they were of still very tender age and their inspiration came mainly from Trash
and Death Metal
of that time. In their early days they mainly restricted themselves to cover works from their favorite genres. These realities, together with the fact that they originated from the (even for Irish standards) backwater of Skerries, a rural town some 30 kilometers distant from Dublin, made for that they were not exactly jet propelled to fame.
Their first four years saw them intensively looking for a style for themselves, changing with their own changing preferences and the arrival of new members.
What probably was the most important single event in the band’s formative development was the arrival, in 1991, of vocalist Alan Averill, a man with clear ideas about music and an even clearer, but also very, very masculine, voice. As however they were still struggling with choosing a definite style and even more so writing recognizable own material, it still would take almost three years before a first Demo
was released and two more years to get a label interested enough to throw a full length, “Imrama”, on the market. Never
being very prolific, during the next decade only three more albums were released on which we saw the gradual evolution from what originally was kind of melodic, tempered Black Metal
, to a more epic and Celtic folk orientated, ever more heavy sound. All their albums were well acclaimed by the insiders, but broader fame was still far away.
With the 2005 release of “The Gathering Wilderness
”, after nearly two decades of existence, finally the Primordial
as we know it today came into being. Not only had the sound changed to a heavy extreme Metal
, laced with Celtic folk and epic elements, rise to fame was almost instant and certainly meteoric for a Black Metal
band. It might not be a surprise that since then nothing in the concept has been changed anymore. Most fans considered 2007 “For the Nameless Dead
” just half a point less than its predecessor, but the new effort, under scrutiny in this review, is almost like a sister record to The Gathering Wilderness
all that Primordial
is and stands for finds its unrestricted expression on this release, so we can now safely turn our eyes and ears on just that.
As said; No changes of any significance compared with the recent past on Redemption
at the Puritan
, but that falls into the category “Never
change a winning team” or “If it ain’t broken don’t repair it”. Sound concept centered around a more than robust rhythm section which even in the more melodic and folky parts creates an outspoken heavy atmosphere. Frequently this core is surrounded by uncompromising, lavishly distorted rhythm guitar walls.
But what remains the main feature of the band’s specific sound are the vocals of Averill, who unlike a majority of Black Metal
vocalists has no need to resort much to high pitched screaming, over distortion or deep gutturals. Almost in contradiction with the conventions of the style, his voice remains, although raw and often expressing emotional disgust and aggression, unbelievably clear and everyone with a fair knowledge of the English language will find little trouble understanding most of the lyrics. Unbelievable voice the man has, one of the best in black metal, and arguably in all metal.
Folk instruments are near absent on this album, and definite folk elements limited to the intros of some of the tracks. In the past the band has used folk instruments more prominently, but in fact their absence here does not do much harm to the overall folky impression. Together
with some of their Russian counterparts, Irish Folk Metalists exhibit a remarkable skill to create folky atmospheres with purely electrical instrumentalization. Moreover, Primordial
’s music is unmistakably Celtic, again, on a purely electrical basis. The Epic
feeling that has been so strong in their past few efforts is just as tangible on this newest effort. Most of that is also due to their specific way of composing together with Averill’s emotional voice. Strange enough the lyrics tend more to doom themes than the epic, but even that is nothing new for those who have known the band a little longer.
ARTWORK, PRODUCTION AND
is not exactly known for any elaborate artwork. Very early in their career, the boys have been playing around a lot with complex logo designs, but in recent years nothing is left of that, in fact the present band logo is one of the simplest around in all black metal. However the curving of the letters is subtle and accentuates their Irish origins.
Although on the sleeves of past albums they have sometimes exhibited somewhat more effort in the artwork, but in this case it is also of quite a simple nature. On a plain white background there is the shape of a medallion, with in its center the drawing of a skeleton with an expression full of scorn and disgust. Around the inner oval shape there is a broad border ornamented with occult symbols. The whole is drawn in monotonous shades of brown. It is a matter of taste whether you are charmed by a design like this, but for me it would never be a sole reason to want to buy the album.
As with the previous two albums, this one was also released on Metal
Blade Records, and as we all know, these are not little boys or rookies when it comes to producing and releasing the better Metal
. They prove that here once more. Not a single major flaw in production can be pointed out and even an expert would have a hard time coming up with advice about what could be improved. Promotion of the album was also done in a professional way, (Although by now Primordial
albums can largely promote themselves simply by being released), so if there is no shit brewing under the surface of which we are unaware, there seems little reason for the band to go looking for a new label.
As usual for Primordial
all the songs on this album are rather lengthy, between six and a half and just over nine minutes. Themes of the songs are also what one was already used to, featuring the epic of a long lost past, the vain search for restoration of what was once great and the unfulfilled pagan identity looking back from the present, anger with those responsible for the destruction of the ancient equilibrium, anger with those who proved unable to prevent such and anger, into the desperate, at the lack of ability to find the path back.
“No Grave Deep Enough” is kind of an entrée to write in capital letters. After a beautiful folkish intro featuring contemplative acoustic guitar, a thorough bone crushing rhythm section grabs the core, with as often in their songs, a very fast bass-drumming, overlaid with subtle and somewhat subdued guitar work. Not so subtle are the vocals of Averill. Strong, anger-laden and dripping with epic atmosphere and emotion. Everything that makes up the present concept of the band’s sound is there in abundance. Song also features an almost perfect production.
eight and a halve minutes long “Lain with the Wolf
” at first makes a rather monotonous impression, but when studying on the more subtle elements, one indeed finds a richness of variation in as well the instumentalization as in Averill’s vocals. Unlike on the first track, the vocals aren’t really loud and aggressive but more of a bright, pessimistic contemplative nature. Very good instrumental part in the second half with intelligent guitar soloing. At first I didn’t like the track much, but the more I listen to it, the more I am taken in.
“Bloodied yet Unbowed
” of almost nine minutes duration is certainly not among my favorites, although gathering up speed and impact in its later parts, it starts out rather laid back, with very timid vocals. For sure the song contains nice melodic elements over its entire length, but I can’t escape getting a little too much mainstream feeling (whatever that may be……). Neither Black enough, nor loud enough, nor folky enough for my personal taste. The one thing here that is 100% up to standard is the overall epic atmosphere.
“Gods Old Snake
”, one of the two somewhat shorter tracks, has again a very nice combination of different elements, with more than a whiff reminding of the band’s early affinity with Trash Metal
. Alan’s vocals in the beginning of the song are at its most standard black metal, but it wouldn’t be him if this was not discontinued lateron, after an intermezzo of recited speech lain in the background of the sound. Latter part goes deeper and deeper into the melodic, with dazzling and mysterious guitar soloing after Averill has shown the brighter and more melodic realms of his vocal stratus. Damn good!
How versatile indeed the band is, is once more shown in 8:53 long “The Mouth of Judas”, with and intro and intermediate parts played and sung in a way that could probably even meet the approval of more than a few lovers of the heavier progressive rock. Where it goes into the chorus parts, the sound swells, even when one here sure finds strong tastes of Epic
with very melodic flavoring, it nowhere erupts into the violence of many of the band’s other songs. Beautiful spun out guitar work, as well solo as rhythm and Averill singing at his most melodic, but still raw and emotional, explain, without much additional words needed, why Primordial
has a following far exceeding that of a Black Metal
Trashier elements with Primordial
always seem to come in with the shorter tracks, “The Black
Hundred” being no exception, especially in its beginning. Fast and rough at the start, more varied and melodic lateron, but not one of those that really impress me. Third voice speech separating first and latter part of the song, going almost over into the operatic. For once the vocals also seem to be struggling somewhat to hit the right tone, but well, he wouldn’t be a great singer if he were not able to emerge from that with relative ease.
Does something like Black Metal
Ballads exist? Listening to the Puritans Hand
I tend to say yes. Absolutely wonderful composition with great breaks and changes and Averill showing all the best of his great variety of vocal concepts, from pure, bright, laid back, to aggressive , shouting, emotional. Don’t get me wrong, that I write relatively few words about it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a highlight of this album!
The longest was saved for the last here, “Death of the Gods” , lasting over 9 minutes, shows mainly the more melodic sides of the arsenal of Primordial
, also expressing a more resigned and doom laden, almost defeatist mood than most of the songs of the band, (Although you will search in vain for anything really positive and hopeful in the entire lyrics they have so far staged). It is certainly a naturally balanced composition, but it streams a bit as a river without any cataract surprises. None of the nice breaks and variety in vocals that can be found at so many spots in the band’s repertoire. Not one of the best, certainly the least interesting here.
has once more pulled it off well. No, little surprises here, but lots of solidity. Anyway
those looking for surprises in the band’s concept will probably be disappointed for a long time to come, as everything points into the direction that with the last three albums they have found the specific turf they were looking for. Is it among the greatest albums ever made? No, that would be too much honor for this production, but it does represent one of the top releases in Folk Black Metal
of this year and given the competition, that is no mean fact. 18 out of 20 from me for this one and looking forward to more stuff like this!