Primordial – “Exile Amongst The Ruins” (Metal Blade records)
AA Nemtheanga doesn’t simply write songs. Instead, like storytellers of olde, the Irishman paints pictures so vivid and voluptuous, with grandiose tales that approach biblical proportions, that you almost feel as though you’re magically transported back to some distant time. Whether it’s Ancient Egypt, gladiatorial Rome or Pagan Ireland, it all flows seamlessly from the finely executed pen of Nemtheanga.
These mercurial talents have been the essence and lifeblood of Primordial for 27 years now, and as the cascading ”Where Greater Men Have Fallen release evidenced four years ago, the fires are burning as brightly and as fiercely as ever. Live album Gods To The Godless kept the waters flowing strongly in 2016, with Exile Amongst The Ruins the ninth full length studio release from the debonair Dubliners. Once again Primordial present a rumbling selection of Celtic-driven tracks in which folk elements jostle for breathing space alongside feistier black metal attacks”. The unnerving chime of a solitary church bell leads us into the opening track “Nail Their Tongues” in which a menacing chug then takes over. As Nemtheanga sings about ‘piercing the tongues of liars’ the chorus develops into the kind of rousing cry that have made Primordial’s stage show more of an experience than a mere gig.
“To Hell or the Hangman” maintains the tempo opening with an understated riff that steadily gains in stature before leaping off the page accompanied by Nemtheanga’s rustic roar. With spiralling guitars from Ciarán MacUilliam and Michael O’Floinn, the sound is unmistakably that of these irrepressible Irish warriors. Most tracks don’t fall too far short of the 10-minute mark, allowing the songs breathing space and time to evolve, the tension chords pulled ever tighter the further into the heady maelstrom we go.
Primordial possess an enviable ability to write music pumped full of emotion that really gets under your skin – exemplified here in the goose bumps inflicting slowburner “Where Lie The Gods” – a wonderfully melodic song that feels almost weighed down with emotion as Nemtheanga opens both heart and lungs in equal measure.
While this album is not drawn to any particular period in time, mythical or real, as usual with Primordial it is with the forgotten and disposed where sympathies lie. The album’s title track is not quite the soul-baring call to arms that we’ve come to expect from these leaders of men. But like the album as a whole, which of course is how it should be digested, the grooves and undulating mood swings require an investment of your time. If prepared to do that then the riches will be forthcoming, of which there are many.
“Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed” is a particularly melancholic number, one that opens against an almost militarised drumbeat from Simon O’Laoghaire. When the guitars rush in, a particularly chunky riff takes hold amply supplemented by the bass of Pól MacAmlaigh. Nemtheanga keeps a firm grip on the reins, preferring at this juncture a controlled gallop rather than a sonic stampede.
On “Stolen Years” the tempo and mood is more reserved with Nemtheanga’s doleful lament cushioned on top of a sympathetic rhythm before the guitars rise to create a more stirring sound. “Sunken Lungs” is another seafaring song, a subject never far from Primordial’s beating heart.
Nemtheanga again entrusted production to Ola Ersfjord, who as well as working on Primordial’s recent live album also oversaw the recent album from his excellent doomier side-project, Dread Sovereign.
The word is that when set alongside their previous studio album this release was an altogether more challenging and demanding exercise. Not that you would know it when listening as one sweeping song cascades effortlessly into the next. Ireland has an enviable tradition when it comes to wordsmiths, poets and storytellers. On Exile Amongst the Ruins Nemtheanga has once again proudly maintained his nation’s literary traditions to imperious effect.