To The Nameless Dead

Written by: EW on 13/06/2008 15:29:12

"Why do you love Heavy Metal so?" is a question, or variant of, I have been asked numerous times down the years and I have never had any trouble answering it. Yet, if there is one band, or one album that sums up everything I love about this oft-maligned style of music, it could quite certainly be Ireland's Primordial with their sixth album "To The Nameless Dead", which was released late last year. This is a band who have built up an ever-increasing fanbase through consistently improving records, standing their own amongst ever-changing fashions and trends, not playing into the hands of music business professionals or clingers-on, and are simply one of the greatest and most passionate live bands I have had the pleasure of seeing. And oh yes, I forgot, both this and their previous album "The Gathering Wilderness" sit comfortably in my all time top 20 albums list. You could say I'm a bit biased for this review, and you would be most certainly correct, but that bias has come from nothing but sheer unadulterated love of this band and its music.

Where to start reviewing an album as epic in sound and in scope as this? Having owned a vinyl copy of "To The Nameless Dead" since its release at the tail-end of 2007, it has had countless spins to worm its infectious melodies and emotive atmospheres into my brain and I am pleased to say that its glory still survives after the initial period of excitement has died down. The sound that Primordial produce is really quite like no other. The vastness of the riffing, which still maintains an element of the Black Metal melodies from which Primordial were birthed, maintains a feel of epic grandeur that only the godly Bathory have ever mustered and is done in a less contrived, keyboard-based fashion than many current Folk/Viking bands manage. The term 'Folk Metal' is often used to pigeonhole Primordial, but this tends to suggest a band using violins, flutes and other 'folkish' instruments which Primordial are devoid of, as their atmosphere comes from the haunting melodies contained within the lead riffs of guitarists Ciaran MacUiliam and Michael O'Floinn as well as a superb production nestling all instruments in perfectly with each other. Album opener "Empire Falls" highlights my point immediately with a quintessentially beautiful clean guitar guiding the listener in, before the hard-hitting Metal takes over. And then it happens, Primordial's pièce de résistance, when vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga opens his mouth and lets out some of the damn finest and most passionate vocals ever heard in Metal, probably all of music if I knew any better. His vocal style still retains an element of the Black Metal shriek he used more prominently on past albums (see "No Nation On This Earth") but in general the man has shifted to singing and chanting akin to a warrior issuing a rallying war cry to his battle-hardened men in the face of inevitable defeat against invading armies. The lyrics of "Empire Falls" and "Heathen Tribes" suggest a similar level of passion in his tomes of intense national pride, making a very interesting read.

With the exception of instrumental track "The Rising Tide", all songs are close to or over the 6 minute mark, four over 8, giving plenty of opportunity for the songs to weave and wind their own course as only Opeth know how, continually introducing new elements at different times and never for a second getting boring. "Traitors Gate" shows best the competencies of the whole band as a range of melodies create canvasses of numerous emotions, and drummer Simon O'Laoghaire fills out at the back brilliantly, never being the centre of attention but providing some truly delicious backing rhythms to push the whole thing along. "As Rome Burns" best shows the band's mid-paced style as it is interspersed with heavier bridges and choruses and slower sombre sections revealing the desperation of the themes contained within: "Sing sing sing to the slaves / Sing to the slaves that Rome burns".

"To The Nameless Dead" is one of those very very few albums where every song is perfect and blends together to create a package greater than the sum of its parts. None of the songs sound particularly alike and the emotion dripping out of it is enough to have even the most hardened Metaller weeping into his pint. If the music world was meritocratic, Primordial would have found their seat in the upper echelons and be playing stadiums by now as "To The Nameless Dead" fills out the few gaps found in the near-perfect "The Gathering Wilderness". Thankfully though it isn't, this kind of music can't be grasped by most. Only one mark is possible and of this I'm sure of, as the goosebumps still hit me listen after listen. Surely a future classic.


Download: Empire Falls, Heathen Tribes, As Rome Burns
For The Fans Of: Bathory, Doomsword, Falkenbach
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Release date 19.11.2007
Metal Blade Records
Provided by Target ApS

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