Despite hailing from the UK, PRIMITIVE GRAVEN IMAGE has a decicedly Scandinavian sound. Think of a more competent MARDUK mixed with the melodic sensibilities of early DARK FUNERAL and early IMMORTAL, with some IRON MAIDEN influence in the lead work.
The strength of this release is that it is Black Metal which succeeds in bringing in melodic sensibilities and a slight Speed Metal influence without sounding like a cruddy Gothenburg ripoff or stooping to the lows of the current Post-Rock trend. The weakness of this release is precisely the same; it brings nothing surprising to the ears of this reviewer, and the songwriting abilities alone are not enough to elevate this release above dozens of other, similar ones.
I sometimes wonder what is worse for Black Metal; trendy garbage like KRALLICE, LIFELOVER, and other bands which get by on aesthetic alone, or bands like PRIMITIVE GRAVEN IMAGE? While musically, the latter are far superior, artistically, they really don't exceed much in the way of quality when compared to the trendy stuff.
I must say, these gents have a good sense of workable melodies, and melodies which fit into Black Metal without sounding like they were lifted out of Hard Rock. Instrumentally, everything is competent. The production is clear (perhaps too clear), but does retain a bit of echo-y treble which makes Black Metal sound much better. Problem is, while I can enjoy the songs in the background, even nodding along to the admittently superb lead work, I do not recall many of the songs once the album is over. The title track is the only one which sticks out, as it uses the most unorthodox elements (on this album, at least).
This album re-defines the term "fence-sitter". Check it out if you like Black Metal, I guess.
(Online June 24, 2010)