Primordial - Where Greater Men Have Fallen - (9/10)
Published on November 10, 2014
Erecting a monolith
From their roots in proto Celtic black metal on Imrama over the woe-filled heaviness of The Gathering Wilderness, to monumental To the Nameless Dead, Ireland’s Primordial have been one band that keeps pushing the envelope while staying true to themselves. And their eighth album Where Greater Men Have Fallen without a doubt has been one of the year’s most eagerly awaited, both in anticipation of the direction of the album and the band’s history of emotionally laden compositions that channel anger, sorrow and power into genre highlights time and again.
And the direction is slower and darker (for the most part), while staying 100% Primordial and the title track is undoubtedly among the best the Irish quintet around charismatic fronter Alan Averill Nemtheanga have penned in their career so far. From the thundering opening riff on, Primordial’s innate spirit is emanating from the speakers, epic yet gritty at the same time, with Averill spewing forth his vocals with this raw emotion that grandly outweighs the lack of polish. A tough act to follow and “Babel’s Tower” is an almost anticlimactic follow-up, taking out much of the energy, the distinct riff and Averill’s soaring voice, opting for a slow, melancholic approach (yet still with heavy guitars and inspired vocals), which may seem like an odd choice, but fits perfectly as a shift of direction and flow with the doomy vibe that continues into Black Sabbathian “Ghosts of the Charnel House” later on.
“The Seed of Tyrants” revives the band’s black metal past, touching upon the frenetic drums and tremolo picked guitars, over which Averill unfolds a crescendo of semi-clear to clear vocals that ooze raw emotion and before ending the album on a high with the closing duo of “Born to Night” with its 03:30-long intro that then turns into a heavy, mid-paced track that picks up the spirit once more, whereas “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun” sets out with this folk influenced intro before becoming a slow and sweeping track that is among the most epic Primordial ever have been.
Two tracks seem to be falling out of the norm, though, “Come the Flood”, continuing down the slower route, but somehow lacking some of the charismatic spirit that makes Primordial so special. At the same time, though, the music perfectly fits the torrential rains that the bleak lyrics touch on, so there is more to this than it seems, yet it seems a little lagging. The other one is the maybe most progressive track the band has ever come up with, “The Alchemist’s Head”, which combines atmosphere with disharmonic vocals, jarring juxtapositions of great melodies and almost abstract rhythm changes, all of which is a stark contrast to the rest of their material and it does not really fit into the context of the album and basically even the band as a whole.
Despite this oddball, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a great continuation of the band’s uncanny spell of high quality releases, avoiding standstill yet being 100% genuine Primordial. Their increased excursions into doomy territories might not cater to all of their fans’ tastes, but show a darker side of the band, having Alan Averill as a vocalist, though, marks anything they do as Primordial and nothing else and he is one of these rare specimens that can carry a song by pure emotion alone. With the title track and “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun”, the Irish have added two songs of absolute brilliance to their already rich catalogue and prove that they have not reached the end of the road by far. It might take a bit more time in some areas to get into, but in the end Where Greater Men Have Fallen will richly reward you!