Redemption at the Puritan's Hand

With 2005’s The Gathering Wilderness, Primordial turned the tide and rose from minor obscurity into everyone’s playlists. Two years later, To the Nameless Dead refined the band’s sound even more. Some bands become content and start to follow a formula, but with Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, Primordial once again thrusts their sound forward, much like between A Storm Before Calm and the aforementioned The Gathering Wilderness.

Albeit the new epoch is instantly recognizable as Primordial, this thing is more mellow—if not more contemporary—but at the same time, philosophically and sometimes musically, more violent. On their (excellent) live DVD, All Empires Fall, the band hoped to capture the old analogue feel. That experiment, that wish and that motif is present here as well. Whereas the band’s back catalogue is filled with Ireland’s mythology and history, this time around Primordial takes cues from Ireland’s—and to some extent, England’s—rich musical history. I might be way off, but for reason or another, Thin Lizzy pops into mind. Yet, the album is still filled with folk, black metal aesthetics and progressive overtones.

Eclectic in its ways, At the Puritan’s Hand sees the band reaching out for a richer soundscape. For example, there are spoken word samples on “God’s Old Snake”—with lines from Aleister Crowley—whilst musically the track has shades of early-mid ‘90s Moonspell at play, even if the musical side never crosses into the European gothic world. On the other hand, the solo at the end of the track and the strut of the drums bring Amorphis to mind. To top it all, the powerful and breathing production brought, out of all records, Manowar’s Hail to England in mind. But I digress. While change is something that listeners have come to expect from the band, there’s still surprising diversity to the album and it all works because Primordials inimitable stamp is on every second, every pulse of energy.

A.A. Nemtheanga also delivers his strongest vocal work  yet, screeching, rasping, growling and singing through an hour’s worth of material. While the versatility might have been equal on the latest Blood Revolt album, here, the execution simply eclipses that performance on all levels. This is clear from the get-go as opener “No Grave Deep Enough” spurs the album into violent fury, with Nemtheanga’s commanding vitriol; “All of the God’s children / they all have to die”. Indeed! The man simply seizes the listener’s attention with his vocal lines and sensitivity; his sense of drama is becoming outmatched in the heavy metal kingdom. Just listen to the transition from gnarls to cleans around halfway mark on “God’s Old Snake”; it’s never given that someone makes something grand out of something so simple. Simon O’Laoghaire returns on drums—despite taking a short leave from the band—and luckily so. I’ve always admired his style and his playing again sets the backbone to the march of order here. The same goes for the rest of the band. Everyone displays effort and passion. Lyrically the album seems more personal, poetic and even imminent. There’s a sense of urgency and longing, as if to grasp reality, life before we all succumb to our deaths.

We very well might have Primordial’s most diverse record at our hands. That’s saying quite a bit. There’s plenty of variation, in speed, tone and personality. As each track clocks in between six and nine minutes, there’s an old-school aura to At the Puritan’s Hand: when albums—vinyl records—were monoliths that demanded and deserved time, respect and devotion. None of the tracks stand out straightaway nor are there clear crowd pleasers—like To the Nameless Dead’s “As Rome Burns” —but they are able to stand firmly without requiring album-level continuity. Having spent a ton of time with the album, still trying to learn all of its shades and nuances, the first half of the album is clearly more memorable to me, whereas ”The Puritan’s Hand” and the most violent cut “The Black Hundred” still leave me a tad cold. Both of which are perhaps more traditional Primordial-like tracks compared to the rest (along with “Lain with the Wolf”.)

At the Puritan’s Hand is a beast that requires time and effort to sink in. Track by track. Minute by minute.  Yet, it does not always work to its full quality and true stature; with a short attention span the album’s more delicate hooks fall to deaf ears.  The music requires the proper temperament, but when all the bits and pieces fall into place, it’s clear that Primordial have done it again by never surrendering to conformity.

The album takes a few spins to adjust to the high expectations that shadow it,  but it becomes evident that Primordial have once again crafted one hell of an album and one of the heavy metal releases of 2011.

Vinyl highly recommended.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
May 20th, 2011


  1. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    Wow fantastic review Mikko, really elegant and detailed. Haven’t heard this yet, now I need to.

  2. Commented by: legumbrera

    Takes time to fully sink in this album. But right now this is the best metal album of 2011 by far… and Primordial are one of the best metal bands

    Great review!!

  3. Commented by: SRK

    Excellent review.

    One of my favourite releases of 2011.

  4. Commented by: timmy

    Come teach English!
    Superb thinking and well-crafted lines.
    Powerful writing to match a powerful album.

  5. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Brilliant band, brilliant album!

  6. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    “All of the God’s children / they all have to die”

    That’s nearly a quote from the Nick Cave song The Curse Of Millhaven. I’d better check this one out.

  7. Commented by: Guilliame

    I like this album but the vocalist is starting to irritate.

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