Thursday, March 29, 2018

Album Review: Primordial - Exile Amongst The Ruins

Few bands are truly unique. There are so many bands populating every corner fo the rock and metal spheres that to sound truly original, to have no one else who does what you do, is something rather remarkable. Primordial is one of those bands, a group who have carved out their own identity that is quintessentially Primordial. If you've ever heard their music before, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, there isn't an easy way to describe it either. They are themselves, and they are wholly separate from the rest of the metal world. In that way, they are a rousing success.

That being said, I have never been enamored with their actual musical output. They combine Celtic folk and black metal, neither of which is a format I particularly enjoy, which makes the combination not something high on my list of priorities. While I appreciate what they do, I find their music to be overly long to the point of losing me. They set moods and drone on with their chords and riffs longer than I would like, and while AA Nemtheanga has a voice that commands attention, he doesn't deliver melodically in a way that would excuse the tedium of the songs behind him.

This album is no different, and is not one for the impatient among us. Only one of these eight tracks clocks in at less than seven minutes, with three exceeding nine. And given that Primordial does not put the gas to the floor very often, that makes for an album that feels every bit of its length.

The opening "Nail Their Tongues" is Primordial through and through. A lengthy guitar introduction slowly begins things, and once the song gets going, it's compelling stuff. The riffs establish the dark tone, and Nemtheanga's vocals are the rough battle cry they have always been. There's a hint of melody to it, and everything is rolling along well... until ten seconds of pure black metal, complete with rasped vocals, kicks in. Not only does it sound terrible, but there was no connective tissue to explain why the left-turn was made, and then abandoned mere seconds later. Those are the kinds of decisions that have always kept me from getting more into their music.

The other issue is that the length of the songs, combined with their penchant for using ringing chords means that it's also easy for the songs to blend together. Aside from the acoustic intro to "Where Lie The Gods", the majority of the record sits in the same areas, which means that every song is competing with the next for the same place in your head. I get they have a signature sound, but at a certain point doing the same thing for an hour at a time gets not only frustrating for a listener, but it hits the point of diminishing returns.

I like Primordial, in small doses. Listening to the first half of the record, I was enjoying their dark and melancholic metal. At a certain point, however, the tempos began to drag, and I felt the noose tightening. They tried to plow the same field so often that I, as the yoked oxen, struggled to make it to the finish.

Maybe I'm just too impatient for Primordial. Patience is not a trait most people associate with me, so this could just be a case of my attention span not being slack enough to stretch to this degree. I want to like Primordial, because I hear quite a bit in each of their records to think I should be more enamored by them, but there is always that question of time. I do think they continue to hone their craft, and this was the easiest of their records for me to get through. I would say that makes it their best, in my eyes, but I'm not entirely sure what that means. All I can say is that if you don't mind taking the time for a journey, Primordial's latest might just be the ride you're looking for.

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