Review Summary: Folk Metal: Now With 500% Less Flutes!
Primordial knows who they are. As "Empire Falls" says, they are their fathers' sons. Obvious, perhaps, but the sentiment is one that Primordial feels is going unappreciated. While The Gathering Wilderness
was a powerful and highly regarded album just two years ago, To the Nameless Dead
seems to carry itself to a different beat.
Primordial state that if The Gathering Wilderness
seemed impenetrably dark and hopeless, To the Nameless Dead
is like Cúchulainn, climbing to his feet and fighting to his inevitable demise, only in hopes that he will take his enemy down with him. Noting Cúchulainn is not important for its mythological significance, but rather for the sense of pride it emits. Pride, along with a sense of inevitable death are what make To the Nameless Dead
a worthy successor to The Gathering Wilderness
, and as such, a strong competitor for best of 2007. The fact that the band's musical output is as strong as ever doesn't hurt.
The sense of pride I mentioned is impossible to miss. Carried alongside the band's typical gallop, Empire Falls comes out running. Alan Averill's voice is powerful, gravelled and seemingly war torn and melancholic, occasionally spurting bits of pride and vanquish and into the band's mix of folk and metal. The folk is implicit, mind you, distinctly lacking typical wind noises of the genre, vying for a more organic take on the music of their country.
"Gallows Hymn" takes a subtler approach. Slowly building atop a melodic intro that carries a brooding sense of defeat as well as accomplishment, the track holds true to its title. Baring the first introduction to the band's views on faith, obviously an important idea to the Irish pagans forced to deal with both their own complex beliefs and the ripening insertion of Christian morality, "Gallows Hymn" serves as a plea to remember the fallen. Three minutes shorter than "Empire Falls", the track comes off twice as epic nonetheless. Not necessarily serving to incite neo-paganism but as an attempt at remembering what was, the track unearths an interesting journey of a Heathen searching for a soul.
The same ideas carry throughout, with "As Rome Burns" serving as both a musical and thematic extension of "Empire Falls". Segmented with aggression and restraint, the 9 minute epic begins with the band's typical tom-heavy drumming, subtly adding texture and depth. A quick chant regarding the slaves of a Rome set-ablaze passes through before the band build themselves towards a Cúchulainn like warp spasm, growing exceedingly more intense before fading out on extended feedback – falling, but taking the listening with them.
At this point you'll realize the band's true strength; they are intensely powerful. When needed, the guitars encapsulate the rest of the band, and when not, they still fall into a wall of sound. The vocals are delivered passionately and emphasised with both fury and melody. The drumming, as always, is highly rhythmic and perhaps the most distinguished characteristic of the band, serving as the true catalyst for their sound. The bass, sadly, is mostly inaudible.
Consistency continues with "Failures Burden", which slows things down for the first half, while hinting at a heightened pace that conveniently steps in at the midway point, speeding its way through the band's ideas on human failings and the changing of seasons.
Even "Heathen Tribes" manages to make up for its opening three minutes, when, after a brief acoustic interlude, a jig-like passage enters, redeeming the song's shaky loop-like introduction. The two then coincide, making up the most inherently Celtic sounding bits on the album.
After a brief interlude ("The Rising Tide"), "Traitors Gate" alternates between their compounded folk metal sound and the black metal touches found on their earlier releases, with quick blast beats and tremolo picking mixing fluidly with the more downtrodden folk splices. The track ends leading anyone without the luxury of a track-list to believe that it's the final cut on the disc. Logic would at least initially support that "Traitors Gate" is the perfect closure point. To both these, I'm glad to say it isn't.
"No Nation on this Earth" is the summation of all previous ideas. "No Nation on this Earth" is the perfect ending, an epic closure and an important reminder of all encompassing ideas. Ideas summed up by the band in lyrics, quotes and imagery.
As the booklet states, To the Nameless Dead
starts with an idea, which is here, as explained by the band:
The resilience of the human spirit to face adversity and triumph in the face of overwhelming odds yet also our finite lust for bloodshed and the tragedies we are forced to embrace
I couldn't have said it any better.