In a time when the world remains under the omnipresent threat of a new Nickelback album, news of Irish-Celtic folk-laden black metal masters Primordial releasing their eighth full-length come to comfort the weary misanthropic modern metalhead. Despite having been around for more than twenty years, the wise men in Primordial have never really chosen to be in the limelight, instead opting for a rewarding career where fans with three digit IQs can digest their music and appreciate its subtleties over multiple listens. On this new record, entitled Where Greater Men Have Fallen, the layering of sound is as meticulous as ever with nary a catchy segment in sight; which is a good thing.
Primordial’s modus operandi is based on the construction of an immense wall of sound rife with subtle nuances only available to the discerning ear. The guitars complement each other with various drawn-out chord arrangements while the drums and bass do most of the muscle work in the background. In the infrequent instances where they opt to add some lead guitar work, it’s never in the flashy sense of a guitar solo; instead it’s a more measured line where one guitar shines without eclipsing the rest of the band. Frontman Alan Averill (aka Nemtheanga) on the other hand uses this wall of sound as a platform for his ever so theatrical vocal delivery. Song lengths are usually upwards of six minutes which allows the band to take its time with build-ups and allows Alan to dramatically orate his haunting stories.
The album kicks off with the patiently plodding title-track as Alan revisits the themes of nations oppressed and abused under hollow promises. The powerful start is not capitalized upon though in spite of some noteworthy lead guitar work because ‘Babel’s Tower’ and ‘Come the Flood’ drag on just a little, but ‘The Seed of Tyrants’ comes as a swift return to form. Alan screams ‘TRAITOR!’ and then a furious blast explodes for almost three minutes, compounding a feeling of unease. The guitars shriek and wail in despair while the drums thunder forward and then suddenly…it’s all over. Alan steals the show again on ‘Born to Night’ where he sounds like an inspiring leader for the downcast and the downtrodden; the one people should have listened to before everything went awry. This is also the case on ‘Wield Lightning to Split the Sun’ as the anguish in his voice couples wonderfully with the choice of chords to create a bleak and dreary image that is simply sublime.
Where Greater Men Have Fallen is another fine example of what Primordial is capable of as a band yet it honestly fails to re-create the glory of their 2007 effort To the Nameless Dead. The album starts and ends on a very high note but these peaks are not maintained throughout the album’s fifty-eight minute span. A couple of slow pieces do in fact weigh the album down but there’s still a lot to feast upon for the die-hard fans. There are lots of emotional and evocative moments on this record and they are done with class but it’s the album’s compositional inconsistencies that keep it from shining brightly on the current scene.
Primordial’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen gets…