The Gathering Wilderness
Pól MacAmlaigh - Bass
Ciáran MacUiliam - Guitars
Alan Averill ("Nemtheanga") - Vocals (ex-Void of Silence)
Michael O'Floinn - Guitars (ex-Carnun)
Simon O'Laoghaire - Drums (Geasa)
Sometimes it is difficult to convey exactly what draws me to a particular album. The Gathering Wilderness
possesses some intangible attribute, which I cannot quite describe. I have continually returned to the album, almost as if I were searching for that intangible quality. The music is undeniably beautiful, yet it exudes a bleak, hopeless feeling. The premonition of an onrushing cataclysm lies at the heart of every song. The album’s strength does not lie in the technical ability of the musicians, but rather in their ability to write songs, which tap into a well of emotion within the listener. This ability makes Primordial
a band well worth devoting time to.
Each member of Primordial
handles his respective instrument with undeniable talent; however, the individual parts are not overly complex. The drums provide a driving, mid-tempo pulse over which the guitars and vocals weave intertwining layers of melody. The bass mostly remains locked in with the guitars, adding to the low-end presence of the guitar lines. The somewhat distant sounding production of the rhythm section adds to the bleak feel of the music. As the bass and drums pulse steadily underneath the lashing, distorted guitars, a feeling of stoicism amidst the raging winds of a storm arises. The guitar lines are notable for their Celtic (not Celtic Frost) influence, wrapped within a layer of distortion. The guitars have a tone that, although distorted, retains its clarity. Tremolo picked riffs, betraying Primordial’s
debt to Bathory, intertwine, creating depth to the arrangements of the songs.
The melodic sensibilities of the musicians are clear despite the distortion. “End Of All Times (Martyr’s Fire)" demonstrates the capacity of the guitarists to create beautiful melodic undertones. From 3:48-4:34, 5:42-6:13, and 6:30-7:42 different melodic patterns rise up from underneath the driving rhythms, sounding like mournful voices, diminished but not annihilated within howling winds. Although occasionally descending into a lower register, the vocals are largely sung, while retaining a harsh edge. The amount of emotion infused into the music through the vocals is perhaps the album’s greatest strength.
The capacity of Primordial
to elicit an emotional response within the listener is clearest on “The Coffin Ships." The song is a tribute to the lives lost to Ireland through starvation, disease, and emigration between 1845 and 1849 during the Potato Famine. The vocalist conveys rage, impotence, loss, and hopelessness through the range of his vocals. The lyrics urge the listener to “Pause and you can almost hear/The sounds echo down through the ages/The creak of the burial cart." Through the interplay between the mournful guitar progressions, infused with Celtic undertones, and the sorrow of the vocal melodies, you can almost hear the suffering of those long dead. The song fades out with the same mournful guitar lines heard on the intro, this time accompanied by a violin and the sound of rain slowly falling. The unbridled explosion of rage that follows the acoustic intro of “Tragedy’s Birth" chills the bones, especially when the vocalist screams the words “And our civilizations turn to Dust," a premonition of the coming apocalypse echoing from the depths of pagan misanthropy.
Too many bands fail in their attempts to create music capable of emotionally drawing the listener. In order for the listener to feel emotion, there must be the sense that the band itself is genuinely passionate about their music; a musician cannot expect to illicit a response if he lacks connection to his own art. If this passion is lacking, the attempt comes of feeling disingenuous or contrived. When I listen to Primordial
, I can hear that passion. Without it, The Gathering Wilderness
would be nothing more than a failed, though well played, attempt to imitate Bathory.