The best Primordial album since “A Journey’s End,” “To the Nameless Dead” celebrates all the band’s best traits with considerable class and intelligence. Class and intelligence are hard to come by these days, especially with bands whose main themes are spite, bitterness and betrayal, but Primordial achieve it through a perfect balance of aggression, subtle use of harmony and folk elements, and the raw singing of Alan Averill, whose harsh and emotive voice veers closer and closer to the apocalyptic power of Jaz Coleman.
As usual, the music is dense, with heavy repetitious guitar riffs in the black metal style, pounding tribal beats, clanging acoustics and epic arrangements. Primordial forgo the usual tremolo power chords that plague black metal in favor of fewer well-chosen chords. This allows the band to play heavier and meaner than many of their Scandinavian brethren; it also means that they can slow down and add a little rock spaciousness.
The patient, slow-building music is a great complement to Averill, who has become much less reliant on the black metal shriek over the years. His singing voice is raw and nervy, angry and despondent, mournful and recriminating, and more than anything else, defiant. This works wonderfully vis-à-vis the moody lyrics, concerned here with the downtrodden, exploited and subaltern peoples of the world rising up to destroy an out-of-control global culture of materialism and naked greed.
But fear not, Averill is no preacher. His lyrics are metaphorical, approaching these themes through the prism of history and experience. “As Rome Burns,” for example, sees the fall of Rome through the eyes of the conquered (“Sing to the slaves that Rome burns!”). In this sense, Primordial share a lineage with Amebix, the great forerunners of crust, who used medieval, classical and contemporary metaphors to express bitter discontent and personal unease in Thatcher’s Britain.
“To the Nameless Dead” tightens up the band’s sound a bit, with less filler and better developed arcs—they build toward climaxes instead of just pasting a bunch of riffs together. They’ve always been good, but never so forceful or on message. I have to admit that Primordial lost me a little after the great “A Journey’s End,” with only the occasional song from each successive album stoking my enthusiasm. With “To the Nameless Dead,” Primordial have regained an early and fervent supporter.
As I sit here and type, a cold Seattle rain falls on my window and my mind wanders to the outside world, one that stands on the precipice of social and ecological disaster, mostly attributable to the arrogance of industrializing and modernizing utopianism, some of which I’m directly involved with. Something deep inside this music speaks to that urgent discord, that feeling that maybe we all fucked up and in the end heads will have to roll, whether we like it or not. “To the Nameless Dead” is like the leitmotif of that feeling.
Label: Metal Blade Records
Avantgenre: End Of The Road Folk Metal
Official site: http://www.primordialweb.com/
Review online since: 27.04.2008 / 07:00:03
01 – Empire Falls
02 – Gallows Hymn
03 – As Rome Burns
04 – Failures Burden
05 – Heathen Tribes
06 – The Rising Tide
07 – Traitors Gate
08 – No Nation On This Earth