Apart from the double CD recording of a 2009 Dublin show that was included with the 'All Empires Fall' 2DVD release six years ago, 'Gods to the Godless (Live at Bang Your Head Festival Germany 2015)' is Primordial's first ever venture into stand-alone live album territory. And it's something truly special. Indubitably, it will never rank highly (if at all) in "all-time best live rock/metal album" polls - spaces on such lists will be perennially reserved for long established classics from Maiden, Priest, Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, Motörhead, Lizzy and even the likes of Slayer, Death, Emperor and Opeth. However, for me, 'Gods to the Godless...' is up there with the very best and, within the parameters of Primordial's own universe and popularity, this is their 'Live After Death'; their 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith'... I'm sure you get what I'm saying.
So, just what makes 'Gods to the Godless...' so special? First, I have to say that Primordial are one of the finest live bands I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Alan 'Nemtheanga' Averill's integrity and passion in each live performance is rarely witnessed on any stage by all too few bands. And the raw, untamed energy and melancholic majesty of the instrumentations that are performed with equal impassioned sincerity by his Primordial brethren always make these Irishmen an enthralling and invigorating experience. All of this has been captured to perfection on 'Gods to the Godless...' and, while it's in no small way a substitute for the real, lived experience of Primordial in action, it's as good a live album as could be hoped for from this talented bunch of metal stalwarts.
Impressively, the band have succumbed to no overdubs whatsoever in the post-production process. What you hear on 'Gods to the Godless...' is precisely as it went down on 17th July 2015 for what was their fourth appearance at Germany's 'Bang Your Head' festival. Well, it'll obviously sound a little more polished and with a different mix to what punters heard through the PA that night, where the nuances in the two layered guitars become more apparent. However, this album sounds "alive" in every sense. A little crowd noise has been introduced into the mix here and there, but just enough to remind this was a live performance, and so as not to be distracting in any way. Music-wise, the band sound truly enlivened through their performance, and Averill's voice is simply one of the best in metal. Technically, he's not the best singer, of course, but that's partly what makes his voice so special - the uniqueness of his tonality and delivery. I'll take emotional fervour and affective intensities over technical proficiency any time. And he sings his heart out through each song's narrative.
I cannot fault 'Gods to the Godless...' at all. That said, I'd be lying if I declared this to be a flawless live performance from Primordial, but it's precisely those very small flaws that add to the very essence of the album, and make this the special and unique live work that it is. My only minor gripe (and I shall deduct no points for this) is the setlist. I'm sure I speak for many a longtime Primordial fan when I say that it would've been a more well-balanced set had the band delved further into the depths of their back catalogue. Alas, it is what it is, around 82 minutes of a headline-length set that's, effectively, a snapshot of Primordial during their touring cycle for 'Where Greater Men Have Fallen'. And an amazing fucker of a snapshot it is too.
GODS TO THE GODLESS (LIVE AT BANG YOUR HEAD FESTIVAL GERMANY 2015)
Review by Mark Holmes
25th Nov 2016
1) Gods to the Godless
2) Babel's Tower
3) Where Greater Men Have Fallen
4) No Grave Deep Enough
5) As Rome Burns
6) The Alchemist's Head
7) Bloodied Yet Unbowed
8) The Coffin Ships
9) Heathen Tribes
10) Wield Lightning to Split the Sun
11) Empire Falls
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...up there with the very best and, within the parameters of Primordial's own universe and popularity, this is their 'Live After Death'; their 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith'..."