Throughout their long-winded, illustrious career, Primordial have never been known to eschew any of the emotional impact or indeed heritage-inspired concepts that made albums such as To the Nameless Dead so inspired and meaningful to listen to. Primordial have always been known as a band who excel in both of these aspects amongst others, but filling in the blanks isn’t always easy. This perhaps justifies the growing gap between Primordial albums, the idea that Alan Averill pours every bit of effort into the continual research of Irish heritage and its past conflicts with war, poverty and prosperity.
Lately however, Primordial have begun to sow different seeds, seemingly embracing a different musical direction that has certainly made itself apparent on latest effort Exile Amongst the Ruins, an album which is knee-deep in emotional and vocal prowess. It isn’t immediately obvious: Opener “Nail Their Tongues” demonstrates a bleak, adventurous musical movement which gives birth to one of the most memorable vocal lines in Averill’s musical history. The surrounding guitar work may seem a little lighter and less menacing than on past efforts (a recurring technique in many of this record’s songs), but it is performed with the same passionate performance as before, offering music that can make you feel something and not merely be heard. The same can be said for “Upon the Spiritual Deathbed”, the song which most closely resembles Primordial’s more black metal-inspired past and pulls no punches in delivering frequent bursts of pace in between the folksy, acoustic moments beforehand. “Last Call” also offers a similar mood in its delivery, but only when Averill’s harsher vocal style amounts to a despicable growl, dulled by the remembrance of war and its harrowing themes.
Even these three aforementioned songs however can’t escape from the idea that Exile Amongst the Ruins is really an entirely different beast, even compared to 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen. Perhaps not conceptually, but definitely in regards to musicianship. Take the title track and “Stolen Years” for example. The former unfortunately becomes derailed and loses itself in a swirl of slow-paced, semi-acoustic meddle, and makes the listener ponder more about how the 8-minute length is justified than how the lyrical spite and Averill’s accompanying groan both connect on a spiritual level. Sure, the invitation of outside sub-genres (Post-rock, progressive rock, traditional doom) maintains some interest, but the title track and “Sunken Lungs” simply don’t inspire the way they were initially intended to. However, “Stolen Years” is a beautifully written, almost psychedelic voyage into completely different sonic territory. With its eloquent grooves and thunderous underlying bass rhythm, the song seems to reach out to its intended audience and invites many listeners into a world ridden with poetic (in)justice, the musicianship of course providing a fitting soundtrack. You may couple this with the groove-laden, bouncy “To Hell or the Hangman”, if only because it features the same mood and tone, but comparably different due to a more intense musical performance.
Unfortunately, the experimentation evident on Exile Amongst the Ruins also lends itself to inconsistencies, and will struggle even more because of certain fans not latching themselves onto a clearly newer musical direction. Yet if you can look beyond the musical surface, explore the conceptual territory that Averill has practically devoted his entire life to researching and being immersed in and understand the brilliant storytelling which points towards this record’s purpose, then the results may well seem different. Whilst Exile Amongst the Ruins doesn’t quite reach the same levels of immediacy as Primordial’s previous efforts, it still demonstrates that the band pour every effort into raw, natural emotion and organic musicianship.
Released: 30th March 2018
- Nail Their Tongues
- To Hell Or the Hangman
- Where Lie the Gods
- Exile Amongst the Ruins
- Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed
- Stolen Years
- Sunken Lungs
- Last Call
Official bandpage: https://www.primordialofficial.com/