Redemption at the Puritan's Hand

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Band Name Primordial
Album Name Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
Type Album
Data de aparición 26 Abril 2011
Enregistrado en Foel Studios
Estilo MusicalFolk black
Miembros poseen este álbum178

Tracklist

1. No Grave Deep Enough 07:10
2. Lain with the Wolf 08:25
3. Bloodied Yet Unbowed 08:48
4. God's Old Snake 06:25
5. The Mouth of Judas 08:53
6. The Black Hundred 06:19
7. The Puritan's Hand 08:36
8. Death of the Gods 09:21
Total playing time 1:03:57


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Crónica @ gletscherwolf

12 Octubre 2011

No surprises in respect to the recent past, but Primordial at its best

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’s Hand”. 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. And 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’s Hand, 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 RELEASE

Primordial 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.


THE SONGS

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.

Near 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 Black Metal 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 cult band.

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.


CONCLUSIONS

Primordial 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!

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Crónica @ InfinityZero

22 Agosto 2012

Passionate, varied, and bold; for those tired of the tongue-and-cheek delivery of so many other bands within the genre.

I still get shivers when a far-off horn cry begins to intermingle with a slow, ominous guitar melody. From somewhere deep in the production the rhythmic pounding of war drums begins as if coming from deep inside the earth itself. The volume builds like the sounds of an approaching army before the first real riff of 'No Grave Deep Enough', the first track of Primordial's Redemption at the Puritan's Hand, knocks the listener flat with a vengeance. With full drum-kit pounding away at the double-bass and the cruching riff, mad with power, tears up my speakers, I feel perfectly the anticipation that the band has worked into the opening track perfectly. The only thing to bring this music into some of the best would be a great vocalist.

Though almost never resorting to an extreme metal growl or scream (never needing to, either), the vocals are some of the most powerful I've heard in folk-metal. Far from corny, overdone, or sugary, Alan Averill delivers a war-mongering ferocious roar of a singing performance, perfectly complementing the speedy folk metal. The verses here and throughout the rest of the album are delivered with great passion, the harsh vocals used only in very small doses, but they too are memorable and well-executed.

The production is as good as it could be without sounding sterile and over-polished. Although I would have preferred the bass end to be a bit higher, what one still gets is a dense, heavy sound that perfectly represents every instrument and layer as an individual. The guitar still manages to keep a sharp bite over most else except for the flooring vocal performance, but the drums and even the bass are perfectly audible also. At the same time, each instrument, though they clearly work off each other to create the most 'complete' performance possible, there is an openess to the playing and in the production that makes things feel nice and spread out, allowing for resonance and atmosphere. Each instrument on its own is as varied as one could probably desire. The bass, though for a lot of the hook riffs follows the lead of the guitars, will sometimes take its own path and lay down another melody behind the guitars, complemented by a drummer who can switch from cymbal fills to pounding, face-melting pummeling in a heartbeat as the songs change tempo like the many turns of a coursing river mixing with streams and lakes and other runoffs until the music swirls and courses like rapids.

The music Primordial writes here is epic, sprawling, atmospheric, and churns between harsh, hammering power and furious melody-laden riffs to low, ominous ballads, Celtic culture taking a spotlight in tone, bringing up images and themes of death-defying journying by sea and land, conquerers, warriors, and ever other viking metal thematic staple. The best part is that Primordial never crosses the line from great songwriting into pretentious territory. They never sound cheap or fake--their music takes their source material as seriously as any viking or folk metal band I've heard since Valfar died and Windir ended. They also do not degrade themselves to tongue-and-cheek goofiness and corniness that so many other folk metal bands seem guilty of these days. The songs here are emotional and highly dramatic--theatrical even--but it is done as well as I have heard it done before. The music, unhindered by hamminess nor pretention, is huge, dynamic and powerful. The band does a great job at conveying the emotion it wants the listener to feel, and though many of the songs deal with lyrical themes of mortality intermingled with the desperate hope for an afterlife (being represented by lyrics about a time when war, plague, and famine claimed the lives of many), the band still manages to create an overall sense of power in the listener. Each song is like a journey and adventure. Though a couple songs seem to stay more or less in one place, going through a few exchanges of chorus and verse before a solo or 'climax' to a song, many take you on a clear path, leading you from a point A to a point B, filled with many different twists and turns, steep cliffs, deep oceans, and mountains. Quiet, soft moments take the place of dense pounding ones while rarely breaking the consistency of each song. Instead of each interlude or break cutting off all the forward drive of the song and coming off like a track stitched together from badly-placed coexisting sections, everything fits together very cohesively; a songwriting skill that is often sorely missed with music of this sort.

The songs themselves vary greatly from one another. No Grave Deep Enough is an aggressive opener eager to tear you down from the get-go after its almost soothing intro harshly comes to a halt. Lain With the Wolf, the song that follows, is full of a power of a different sort; a passionate mid-tempo track full of anger and bitter resentment that begins to change as it goes into a song of seeking power and making choices, and with tonal shift the music follows suit and begins an ascent into optimism. The Mouth of Judas is a sorrowful ballad that shakes you to your core and brings itself into an unforgettable climax. The guitars pulse from slow minor scale apreggios to hard-hitting riffs as the verses alternate is a great way to progress a song, too. The title track is almost like an ascension, moving from slow, expectant melodies into wild Celtic-inspired riffs of vigourous wild musicianship, full of an energy that makes it hard not to headbang. Primordial also mixes genres as best as just about any other band as I've seen, shifting to whatever style best suits the themes presented in each song. Though I'd primarily classify this album as a viking or folk album, the band uses doom metal and black metal as secondaries, most notably in the songs Mouth of Judas and God's Old Snake. They also dabble a little in thrash when it comes to some of the speed and and agression they hit in the climaxes of their heavier, faster songs.

The only song I'm not particularly a fan of is The Black Hundred. While by no means a bad song (that ravagin riff that comes in a bit after the four minute mark is a monster and the buildup that precedes it just as well-done), it seems to meander in just a few places, falling a little short of the mark of its possible potential. The following two tracks more than make up for it, even though the first few minutes of the song seems like a small lag in the album, and in general comes off as a little more disconnected and unfocused as other songs here. I suppose The Black Hundred could be shaved from the album entirely without changing the album too much. The only other issue is that once in a while Alan Averill's singing seems not to mesh with the music that follows him, and at these times it sounds like he is trying to read from a set of lyrics while applying obligatory singing voices to the music. I notice this the most on the first few lines of Bloodied Yet Unbowed, and a few more instances of this can be found throughout the album, even though outside of the aforementioned track it is rare.

I would defenitely go as far as to call this my favourite folk metal album. It is only my first time listening to a Primordial album, and I am currently unfamiliar with their discography except for To the Nameless Dead, their album that precedes this one. I was completely unfamiliar with the band's hype until well after I called this my favourite folk metal album, but I can say that I defenitely see where this hype comes from. The band does many things right that so many other popular folk metal bands do wrong, and their sound stands far apart from the clones that pollute the genre. I recommend this for any folk metal fan tired of the obnoxious tongue-in-cheek delivery of other bands within the genre, and for anyone seeking a passionate but powerful metal album. This is not an album that many would consider a mistake to listen to.

FAVOURITE TRACKS:

No Grave Deep Enough
The Mouth of Judas
The Puritan's Hand

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Balin - 22 Agosto 2012: Great album, great review!

I also discovered this band throught this album and someone said:
"Well I "discovered" them about as much as Columbus? discovered the Americas." This is perfectly true for me. BTW, every album of Primordial is a fucking masterpiece, you should give them a try. (The Gathering Wilderness has the best sound ever recorded^^)
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