Primordial - _The Gathering Wilderness_
(Metal Blade, 2005)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9.5 out of 10)
Ireland's Primordial have had a brilliant, but somewhat unusual career so far. Ever since their second album, _A Journey's End_, they have been getting progressively angrier and more aggressive with _Spirit the Earth Aflame_ and especially _Storm Before Calm_ -- while most bands tend to travel the opposite route. With _The Gathering Wilderness_, Primordial have done something different: they have opted for a less polished, harsher sound (courtesy of Billy Anderson, of Neurosis fame); but they have also toned down the aggression on most of the album and brought back much of the tragic feel of old -- what was becoming a minority in their albums has grown back into a majority, only now it lives inside a rather different soundscape.

On _The Gathering Wilderness_, Primordial revisit old themes and remain unsurprisingly attached to the Celtic and Pagan elements that have always carried their black metal to a different level. In truth, there are no great changes in their music; they only balanced things a bit differently, and worked within a new sonic environment -- a more natural sounding one that suits them very well indeed. The kind of brilliance that created songs such as "The Soul Must Sleep" a few years ago is still all here, as seen on a number of passages throughout the album, and most remarkably on the incredibly powerful and tense "The Coffin Ships". Alan Nemtheanga's vocals are as intense as ever -- or even more so, to the extent that some will find he oversings a couple of passages, but his performance is excellent and the feeling it carries is quite incredible. Although his potent blackened snarls have by no means been abandoned, there is more clean singing than on the last album, and more variety as well. The guitars and drums are every bit as unique, distinctive and excellent as one has come to expect from Primordial, and it all comes together as admirably as ever. The songwriting works on the contrast of morose passages and outbursts of anger, and maintains a pleasantly free roaming approach without becoming a meandering mess.

In my view, this is Primordial at their most confident and mature to date. While it is impossible for me to pick an absolute favourite album of theirs, I think this is their strongest, most consistent collection of songs -- matched by sound and packaging in a way that had never been repeated after _A Journey's End_. It may take longer to grow on you than some of their previous albums, but it's well worth it. Whether or not you will find _The Gathering Wilderness_ Primordial's crowning achievement, it remains an excellent record that presents some novelties without departing from their successful route. _The Gathering Wilderness_ is an outstanding album full of character and intensity, not to be missed; definitely one of the best albums to be released in 2005.


(article published 10/3/2005)

5/19/1999 P Azevedo Primordial: Dark Songs of Erenn
3/4/2012 P Azevedo 7.5 Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
12/2/2007 K Sarampalis 10 Primordial - To the Nameless Dead
9/1/2002 P Azevedo 9 Primordial - Storm Before Calm
8/12/2000 P Azevedo 9 Primordial - Spirit the Earth Aflame
1/15/2000 P Azevedo 9 Primordial - The Burning Season
9/1/1998 P Azevedo 9 Primordial - A Journey's End
3/14/1996 N Bassett 8 Primordial - Imrama
2/20/2006 P Azevedo Primordial / Ceasa / The Ransack O Discerning Portuguese Metalheads, Where Are Ye?
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