Primordial - Exile Amongst the Ruins - (9.5/10)
Published on April 20, 2018
Some bands just have the “it” factor. Irish Primordial always have had “it”, even though throughout their career the definition of “it” has significantly shifted. Having started out as a black metal band, their demo Dark Romanticism… Sorrow’s Bitter Harvest… in 1993 had been some pretty gnarly black metal mixed with some doom influences, they moved through pagan influenced black metal on 1995’s debut Imrama into more progressive regions, slowly morphing into the doomy behemoth that their later albums would become, culminating in The Gathering Wilderness (“The Coffin Ships” anyone?) and their magnum opus To the Nameless Dead in 2007. 2018 sees the release of their ninth full-length album Exile Amongst the Ruins and they are getting close to recapturing the insane, intense magic of these two albums.
Some may claim that sticking to a recipe would constitute either the easy way out or creative standstill, but it would have been simple for the Irish to just trying to recreate To the Nameless Dead, yet neither Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand nor Where Greater Men Have Fallen did just try to emulate it, but continued to press forward, however subtly. So now Exile Amongst the Ruins is an almost seamless continuation of this progression, firmly building on the band’s more than just solid foundation and erecting another monolith for the ages. “Nail Their Tongues” may be the most unusual choice for an opener, setting out with a tolling bell and one of these slow build-ups Primordial have mastered so wonderfully throughout the years, but despite the grand, epic chorus is definitely one of the bulkier tracks in their recent history, making it a little more difficult to get into originally. That being said, it is still 100% Primordial in its essence.
“To Hell or the Hangman”, though, brings the past and present together almost better than any other track here, with an almost hypnotic, repetitive and straight start that reminds a bit of 80s Killing Joke, retaining this relatively simple and repetitive nature throughout the whole duration, but at the same displaying a very nice sense of urgency through it. One of the Irish’s biggest strength, though, lies in their majestic doom-laden hymns and Exile Amongst the Ruins has a whole bunch of them, with “Where Lie the Gods”, “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed” (some of the most intense doom the decade has to offer, just to bring in some amazing dynamics at the end with a well-timed acceleration and fierce growls) and “Stolen Years”, which once more shows why Primordial are masters of build-up, channeling almost pure atmosphere for the first three minutes before breaking out into a full elegiac doom dirge that grabs you like an oncoming flood.
Before this cohesion could be misconstrued in the album sounding samey, it is not, because the quintet manages to shift and move just enough to create wonderful dynamics and passionate atmospheres without neglecting heaviness and surprising outbreaks. The only part of the album that does not quite fit into the cohesive whole is the somewhat chaotic ending of “Last Call” that brings Exile Amongst the Ruins to a somewhat anticlimactic end.
Either way, Primordial continue to forge their very own path through the metal kingdoms, weaving in and out of some of them, yet refusing to swearing allegiance to either. Exile Amongst the Ruins is another worthy addition to the band’s already outstanding back catalogue and is a hot contender for album of the year lists worldwide!