Primordial Where Greater Men Have Fallen
By: Chris Davison
I finally saw Primordial live, this year, at the Bloodstock Open Air festival. Of course, I'd seen them there before, but not before vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga had lost his voice. It's fair to say that Primordial's epic, sweeping hymns do tend to work better with words. Hot on the heels of this performance, (which, by the way, I found mesmerising) comes Where Greater Men Have Fallen, the latest masterwork from the Irish band. I've consistently found their work engaging, fascinating, and uncompromising, so I was delighted when thee editor posted this to me to review.
Primordial, while drenched in the history of being a black metal band, have long since left that label behind. While taking some of the key signatures of the movement – in particular, the tendency for rapid riffing and a droning tone, the Primordial of yore has much more to do with epic doom metal and folk metal. Here you will find huge, vast soundscapes stretching as far as the mental landscape will allow. With an instantly recognisable guitar tone, this album has really seen Primordial at their most progressive. When the opening riffs of the brilliant track “Come the Floods” erupted from my speakers in its almost eight minute glory, the haunting atmosphere and melancholic chord progression marked Primordial as a band at the very top of their game. The rhythm section, itself an understated but ruthlessly effective part of the band, add a frequently insistent heartbeat to the music. A A Nemtheanga's voice, a clean, but sorrow drenched instrument of dread, waxes and wanes to the tidal surges of the music. There is really no one who can add so much gravity and depressive weight to a vocal delivery in modern heavy metal.
This is not to say that Where Greater Men Have Fallen doesn't have its fare share of raging moments; the opening sections of “The Seed of Tyrants” will take you back to the second wave of black metal's 90's heyday, being, as it is, a collision between a furious aural storm and an angry hornet. The versatility of the band continues with “Ghosts Of The Charnel House,” which comes across like the bastard offspring of modern Candlemass with the melodic sensibilities of classic Thin Lizzy.
It goes without saying that each of the eight tracks weighs in at over five and a half minutes, with the lion's share clocking in around the eight minute mark. This is not an album to be hurried, but an absorbing, mature offering that rewards repeat listens. Where Greater Men Have Fallen is an all around excellent album.