I've been hooked on Primordial since their debut album, 'Imrama', first appeared back in 1995. They've always eschewed and transcended ephemeral metal subgenres, to forge their own, inimitable musical stylings. And, while they've indubitably inspired and influenced the music of countless other acts over the years, A.A. Nemtheanga and co. have remained untouchable; a unique and superlative metal force for well over two decades. Their journey continues with 'Exile Amongst the Ruins' which, while another solid album within their canon of work, is not the band's strongest.
Interestingly, in the band photo accompanying this promo, frontman Alan Averill now seems to have modelled himself on a fusion of a metal icon (Rob Halford) and an eighties comedy legend (Kenny Everett's Sid Snot). But there are no Priest-isms or 'Snot Rap' shenanigans in the music here; the Halford/Everett homage seems to be in image only. The songs remain reassuringly Primordial, through and through.
Album opener, 'Nail Their Tongues', is melancholic-drenched bliss, loaded with classic Primordial idioms and Averill's impassioned clean vocals, which contrast sharply with a burst of acerbically delivered growls during the song's closing minute. A mightily strong opening. 'To Hell or the Hangman', an undoubted album highlight, somehow succeeds in sounding like the band we all know and love, while progressing their dynamic into refreshingly new territory, which is largely thanks to the simple, yet devastatingly effective, driving sticksmanship of Simon O'Laoghaire.
After this incredibly strong duo of tracks to open the album, what then ensues are a series of slow-burn growers. Songs that lack the immediacy of 'Nail Their Tongues' and 'To Hell or the Hangman', but still flow seamlessly with a more covert emotional power that reveals itself increasingly with each new listen. Don't get me wrong - there's so much to love and cherish throughout the album for the Primordial aficionado; it's more a case of half a dozen tracks that fail to reach the hallowed heights of the band's best work.
While Averill has described the studio time for 'Exile Amongst the Ruins' as "a total endurance test filled with conflict and discomfort", it's evidently turmoil that has resulted in a great album. And, who knows, perhaps many of the songs here are growers beyond the time I've had to digest the album before having to review it. Another couple of months with the music and perhaps I'd be declaring it as more than just great, and one of the band's best. An eight out of ten score seems fair for now, though.
EXILE AMONGST THE RUINS
Review by Mark Holmes
30th March 2018
1) Nail Their Tongues
2) To Hell or the Hangman
3) Where Lie the Gods
4) Exile Amongst the Ruins
5) Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed
6) Stolen Years
7) Sunken Lungs
8) Last Call
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...there's so much to love and cherish throughout the album for the Primordial aficionado; it's more a case of half a dozen tracks that fail to reach the hallowed heights of the band's best work."