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Album Of The Month April 2011
Primordial | ‘Redemption At The Puritans Hand’


If Primordial were once the band of niche critical appreciation, they’re now firmly established as a crowd pleaser to boot. That was the opinion of Mr Nemtheanga in a recent press line – and it just about sums them up.

So what better way to retain both than make an album that distils the best elements of each?

Right from the first bellowed, thundered lyrics, Primordial make it clear what’s concerning them this time round.

“All of the Gods’ children, they all have to die // Pauper to king, sworn enemy to kin // From men without sin to those with a beast within // the grave is absolute, the grave is all.”

Broadly, it’s about death. And what metal album wasnt?

Yet it’s about the time left, and not for a second apologising for the time spent. All the while however, its as though a mucky, boney hand tugs at the heel of each song on here.

The single best thing about this album – moreso even than the music – is the weight, the pure power of the lyric.

Alan has excelled himself.

Both in the writing and in the delivery, this is nothing short of a masterclass in how to dish out cold the furies of heavy metal polemic.

So rich is this album for those who want to immerse themselves in it that each track reveals at least one “take-home” thought, some fantastic piece of wordsmith.

The detail of the lyrics, steeped in real reading, real metaphor and real insight, is fantastic. I have heard few metal albums ever (and I mean that) carry such force of intelligent invective.

It’s this depth that gives pure heavy metal belters like ‘Lain With The Wolf’ an extra sting.

The initial beat is strange. Shifting almost, not quite on the beat it should be. A real musical development for the band. Yet when it slaloms in, its insistence is inescapable. It compels the listener to join. And what a track – pulsating, with olden themes plonked straight into the here and now.

An insatiatble track, one of the best in their entire discography. It’s drumming is peerless, and a new high watermark for the band. The cymbals crash down like thunderbolts.

I wrote years ago about the nod to Sartre in ‘Autum’s Ablaze’. Without getting too wanky about this, I think there’s a similar thread in this track too. Just listen, and imagine that wolf in the corner of the room.

‘Bloodied Yet Unbowed’ follows roughly on from ‘Failures Burden’ from the last album. A sort of ‘I Did It My Way’ lament for times gone by, of the kind Primordial have taken to writing of late. The feel is the same, yet they update it: a vicious blastbeat at the end is given filmic scope by a new and unfamiliar riffing hook. It’s massive.

A further moment of genius comes at the end of ‘Gods Old Snake’. Easternism may yet be a massive cliché in metal for those wanting a modicum of difference, but this is how to do it subtly. That passage – “And I have stood at the top of the world” – is phrased almost supernaturally. You’d expect it sooner from Orhpaned Land than Primordial.

It’s easy to write about the first half of this album. Primodial have heaped the more accessible numbers here. Rather more difficult is the second half.

Things become a bit more drawn, and dinstinctly darker. ‘The Mouth Of Judas’ is oblique. A fog hangs over it, as though you’d imagine the one that hangs over the styx as the boatman crosses. Not to mix the metaphors or anything, but there it is.

Ultra right Russian nationalism is evoked in ‘The Black Hundreds’, appealing to quite what instinct I’m not yet sure.

The familiar black metal tropes are there: a bit of background reading reveals that the sect upheld Tsarist values of ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy and National Character’, the bread and butter of the “Blood and Soil” brigade these days. To what end? I dont know. But it’s a strong track.

It could be said that ‘The Puritan’s Hand’ is the only one that drags, perhaps valuing message over music slightly too much. It was in the same place last album round that the band also called on what could loosely be termed a crowd pleaser, though the nod to ‘Into The Void’ is noted with a smile.

The Irish economic catastrophe could not have passed without the band marking it. ‘Death Of The Gods’ does what it says on the tin, proclaiming the death of the very Republic itself via Primordial’s now familiar fascination with all things Rome.

It’s also a rather cheeky update on Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’, supplanting Collins and Parnell for the original’s McDonagh and McBride. The ‘beware’ oration at the end seems also somehow prescient: who, after all, knows what’s coming this year or next.

But enough sophistry. This is a heavy metal album, and an astounding one.

The vocals are spat with the same kind of blank verse uncare that made Blood Revolt so invigorating. The music moves the band onward equally, with the drums employing new shapes and beats sustaining Primordial’s relevance.

I know of few bands enriching their music with what Alan refers to in here as the ‘Bloody knuckle politic’ of great lyricism as Primordial do. They are to be celebrated for it. There is just so much life, such vigor in this writing that its grip is inescapable when listening.

That is this album’s triumph: that, and fantastic, thundering music.

Utterly, totally essential.

5/5 – Earl Grey ::: 17/04/11



7 Comments
  1. Review has me very excited but I must say, I’m finding some of the recent reviews (this and the new altar of plagues for example) difficult to read.

    I’m not sure why there are so many spaces/gaps.

    Like reading a collection of bullet points rather than a coherent review.

    Not intended as negative criticism, just an observation.

  2. pagandoyle Says:

    Just heard primordial and its awesome as ever but must say i prefered cruachans latest album,really surpriseing in its excellence

  3. Eoin McLove Says:

    I have only given it one spin so far but I think it is around God’s Old Snake that the album becomes a bit more exciting for me. There is more experimentation in the final two thirds of the album, the first third being good, solid, typical Primordial. 5/5? Not sure yet, but it sounds good so far. Alan’s lyrics are a lot more interesting this time too.

  4. Loving the first 4 tracks so far, a lot. Second half is goingt o take a bit more to figure out, but the those first four are powerful, quality songs.

  5. Eoin McLove Says:

    Had it on again last night and the first three tunes sounded a bit stronger. I think it’s a case of opening the album with something a bit more typical and then heading into slightly more experimental and darker waters. Liking it a lot.

  6. Digging it for the most part. Not sure I agree with the excessive praise with regard to the lyrics,much as I respect Alan as a lyricist, but the vocals are superb. “God’s Old Snake” and “Puritan’s Hand” are the high points for me so far – recognisably Primordial but still something different for them. Definitely prefer the first half, but the only song I can say I don’t like overall is “The Black Hundred”.

  7. Fintan Stack Says:

    Not a 5/5 album lads. A solid effort from Primordial for sure, they never dip below the high standard they’ve set for themselves. I just think there is a bit of obsequious flattery on the critics part in this review.

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