PRIMORDIAL’s latest album was easily one of my most hotly anticipated albums of 2011, which I suppose is only natural considering the absolute greatness of 2007’s “To The Nameless Dead”. One could argue that the latter saw the band at the peak of their creative powers, and as much as I hate to say it, the saying proved true – when you’re on top the only place to go is down.
No, Ireland’s finest sons have not quite gone down in flames, but numerous listens to “Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand” have made it clear that Allan Nemtheanga and co. simply have not managed to top the bar which they set so very high with their previous album. The trademark PRIMORDIAL elements are all here: an effective mix of soulful clean vocals and harsh Black screams, a delicate (and thankfully not overdone) infusion of Celtic melodies, swathes of Doom, and long winding songs. Formalistically speaking, this is very much a typical PRIMORDIAL album (a good thing of course), but the album’s fatal flaw lies in its inability to sustain that special atmosphere all the way through. Every song on here starts out in good form but all (save the opening cut) ultimately begin to drag after about 4 minutes or so. The album also gets progressively less impressive with every track, causing the album to basically fade out in a whimper.
“No Grave Deep Enough” is an absolutely stunning opener, showcasing all that is great about this band – the forlorn yet triumphant atmosphere brooding under a style that is equal parts Black, Celtic/Folk, and Doom, all topped off by a strong vocal performance. It’s a real scorcher, but unfortunately it’s also the only real scorcher on here. After this brilliant opening salvo, the album slowly and gradually degenerates into an unfocused and worryingly boring mess. “Lain With The Wolf” is a slower, more introspective number that sees Nemtheanga lament the curse of those “who bear the mark of the beast” amid a bunch of half-baked melodies and erratic tempo shifts that never truly go anywhere. “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” plods along in much the same fashion, and at this stage a sense of unshakeable dread started creeping up on me, but luckily the darker, more sinister “God’s Old Snake” was on call to inject some much needed aggression and oomph into the album. It’s groovy yet undeniably dark atmosphere recalls the likes of ONDSKAPT and FUNERAL MIST, but lo and behold – it also succumbs to aimless repetition about halfway through, and from this point the album never really approaches any semblance of decency any more. Both “The Mouth Of Judas” and “The Black Hundred” feature some amazing clean vocals and suitably epic atmospherics but neither manages to sustain that opening promise for more than a few minutes on end. To compound my misery the final two tracks are easily the worst on offer here, offering not even a momentary glimpse of promise of excitement. I’ve listened to them twice whilst typing this review and I still can’t recall a single positive aspect about either of them.
To cut a long story short, let me emphasize the overbearing problem with this album: it starts out in blistering fashion, then goes into a bit of a plateau, then sinks like a pair of cement boots. How very, very unsettling...
After four long years I’m sure a lot of fans expected something vastly superior to this messy, half-baked album. They’re certainly talented enough. I’ll just chalk this one up as yet another disappointing album in a long list of disappointing albums from 2011. When the muse isn’t with you, the muse isn’t with you I guess...
(Online February 6, 2012)