Primordial
The Gathering Wilderness

Ireland hasn’t exactly been up front of the stage with some of the other European countries, when it comes down to the heavy metal department. Sure, everyone’s heard of Thin Lizzy, but besides them the only two bands I can mention for sure are Cruachan and Primordial. Both of which caress and treasure their region with their music.While Cruachan has been, perhaps more romantic than Primordial, whose outputs have been more violent and blood-soaked in their presentation. And from the two (very different acts in nature), I think Primordial has been the more interesting acquaintance. 2002’s “Storm Before Calm” was a furious release that shook the grounds and left the bodies of the enemies rot onto the battlefield; taking a good use of Ireland’s rich resources of legends and myths, perfectly painting images of distress and spirits of the island formation and its past. That hasn’t changed much in “The Gathering Wilderness”. Tormented and purely Primordial. However, there’s been a notable change in the atmosphere – for the better.

While the previous efforts were able to convey the spirit of the heritage to us outsiders, they were much more traditional in overall presentation that despite the distinctive qualities, you were still able to lump them with the rest of the blackened and folkish acts. Finally, with “The Gathering Wilderness” one can easily say that the band has taken huge steps closer to the purity of an “individual act”. The evolution, similar to that of Agalloch between the Pale Folkore and The Mantle albums, shows us the maturity and development of the expression that one had learned to hope from with the previous releases. The rugged rock is finally being polished into a diamond. In the process of the grind, the volume of the blast beats has been reduced greatly and more space has been given for the emotional brush strokes. With it, A.A Nemtheanga, doesn’t scream and screech the way he used to either (not saying that he’s doing cleans all the time, because he’s not), but fear not, as it’s been done for the benefit of the album. There is so much more life and signs of burning desire within the music and the voice as things have become more dramatic and tragic. The band sounds hell of a lot more serious this time around.

“The Gathering Wilderness” is anything and everything but easy listening. It isn’t something you put on as background music, while you start grooming the garden and prepare a birthday party for your dog. The rawness of the pathos expects and most of all deserves the listener’s complete and exclusive attention. In return, the album does not underestimate the listener. Much like a dramatic story with all the sorrow, pain and happiness, you have to be able to throw yourself at it fully to get the most out of the sincere discomfort. And when your mind finally transcends to the level where your consciousness absorbs only the impulses of the music, the experience is, quite simply, one of the most rewarding there is. Not least, because the wide array of thoughts and feelings that come across from the music, provokes your own mindset and quite personally links your own psyche with the familiar, yet somehow subliminal emotions. Nemtheanga’s effort is clearly the most obvious, but it cannot be forgotten than the rest of the band pulls exactly the right strings and soaring notes – completed with Billy Anderson’s uncompromising, breathing production (rather similar to his works with Neurosis’ releases.) One thing that also got my attention through out the epic 60-minutes was Simon O’Laoghaire’s drumming. His role, to me at least, plays a big part in laying out just the right frames for rest of the band.

Despite the different atmosphere, the bridges leading to the previous albums have not been burnt or demolished. This is evident from the song, “Tragedy’s Birth”, as it’s much more closer to the previous album than it is to the rest of the songs on the new album. It comes even more evident, as it comes just right after the best song of the album (and probably the most memorable song all year) “The Coffin Ships”. Where as “Tragedy’s Birth” features the band raging in a fastened pace, “The Coffin Ships” takes its time (despite the fact that both songs are about 9-10 minutes in length) and slowly builds up a sensation of an unbearable burden. Extremely powerful, extremely agonizing – extremely beautiful. The way Nemtheanga is able to express such torment is just dumbfounding and unforgettable. Overall, compared to the previous efforts, the themes seems to be much more general and related to the “present day” (whatever that is.) Sure, we get our fair share of stories but the new themes also help the listeners to relate to things slightly better. Still, it’s rather wrong for one to point out singular songs from the album, as “The Gathering Wilderness” is clearly meant to be played as a whole.

It should be quite obvious by now, that we are not only talking about Primordial’s best output thus far, but also about an album that will always be remembered by those come in know with it. While it’s “always” too early to say it out loud, “The Gathering Wilderness” is and will be a classic album; even if, it, undeservingly, doesn’t reach the knowledge of the grand majority. But what do they know? Much like Green Carnation and the aforementioned Agalloch, Primordial has finally become their unique, distinctive entity.

*This isn’t actually the review originally featured on Digital Metal.com. No, this is the first or second draft. Unfortunately the finalized piece seems to have disappeared from the Internet altogether (editors note, 2008)

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
February 20th, 2005

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