Primordial - _To the Nameless Dead_
(Metal Blade, 2007)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (10 out of 10)
There is something devastatingly beautiful and tragic about Primordial's music, and it has been present since their very first album. It was probably _Imrama_'s "Fuil Ársa" that captured the interest of many, with the acoustic guitars intermixed in the black pagan metal shredding. With a steady increase in the quality of their output, an almost stubborn perseverance to sticking to the music and concepts they find inspiring, and never giving in to their apparent success and use it to cash in with something less elaborate yet more palatable to the consuming masses, Primordial also earned the respect of both fans and press. _The Gathering Wilderness_ was a brilliant album whichever way you dissect it, and has rightfully garnered almost unanimous praise and ended up being the 2006 album of the year in many lists, not least of all in CoC.

There is always a slight worry as to where a band can go after they reach a new peak. _To the Nameless Dead_ starts off more or less where the last album ended and expands further on those aesthetics. Whereas _The Gathering Wilderness_ was perhaps drenched in despair and darkness, _To the Nameless Dead_, despite the bleak title, offers more hope than its predecessor. Kierkegaard defines the opposite of despair as faith, and mayhap one can say that Nemtheanga's lyrics emphasise a feeling of hope and faith towards life and people this time around.

The album retains the harshness of their previous effort, but the aggression is upped a notch or two, and this is non the more evident than in "Traitor's Gate", which harkens back to their early steps, being surprisingly grim and violent. Double bass drumming, intricate black metal guitars and suitably harsh vocals, filtered through Primordial's sense of melody and tragic emotion, all add up to more than the sum of its parts. Almost the same feeling emanates elsewhere, in personal favourite "Gallows Hymn". A slow, almost militaristic prolonged start gives way to one of the most devastatingly (there is that notion again) haunting guitar melodies.

The rest of the tracks are more akin to the traditional Primordial sound, doomy with a hint of Irish folk, all around eight minutes long with plenty of acoustic guitars that often act as tapestries beneath the electric ones. Opener "Empire Falls" is somewhat atypical in that it contains several moments of more traditional metal riffing. "As Rome Burns" collects all the elements that make Primordial such a unique band and throws them to the listener bit by bit, with Nemtheanga's vocals showing another improvement in range and emotion. The track builds upon several guitar themes and then half way through deconstructs into its basic elements, only to crush down again with all the momentum it has built. Elsewhere, "Heathen Tribes" expands even more on the band's ability to construct melodies on the acoustic guitars and blend them with electric guitar riffs. Nemtheanga also uses a lot more of his clear vocals here.

Special mention should be given to the quality of the packaging, especially the limited edition first cut of the album, which comes in a gorgeous digibook format with a thick booklet that contains plenty of extra photos and artwork, together with lyric notes by Nemtheanga for every song. There is also a bonus CD of their performance at the 2007 Rock Hard Festival, which contains six tracks and is well worth the listen. The extra touches in the art direction are not only evident, but give the sense of a band that cares about the complete package of their release and should be appreciated by the audience.

Truly one of the best albums of the year and at least as good as _The Gathering Wilderness_, Primordial have once more outdone themselves. Excellent musicianship, heartfelt and emotional concepts delivered with passion and honesty. Themes of yearning, loss, hope and struggle. Music that stirs the soul. You cannot want for anything more.


(article published 2/12/2007)

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3/4/2012 P Azevedo 7.5 Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
3/10/2005 P Azevedo 9.5 Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness
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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