REVIEW: Primordial – Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand
Note: This review took a while to emerge owing to the complexity of the album and the difficulty in articulating my thoughts on it. Hope the wait’s been worth it.
Album: Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Blackened Celtic metal
After the new fame found with previous releases The Gathering Wilderness and To The Nameless Dead, Celtic extreme metal band Primordial had considerable pressure to deliver on their 7th album. It took nearly 4 years to come, but finally Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand has emerged. The County Dublin quintet, instead of attempting an album full of triumphant anthemic tracks like “Empire Falls” and “As Rome Burns”, have opted for a dirge-like atmosphere, occasionally breaking out stridently. This allows for each song to develop as an entity, yet without losing the feel of a complete album.
The band make a grand entrance with opener and call-to-arms “No Grave Deep Enough”, and it’s pure trademark Primordial. A slow folk-inspired riff and tribal-sounding toms soon morph into a familiar mid-tempo black metal section with Laoghaire’s pounding snares and the twin guitars of MacUiliam and Floinn. But the center stage has already been reserved for vocalist “Nemtheanga” Averill, whose emotional mid-range singing and fearsome black metal rasps have forever been an integral part of the Primordial sound. And the sound, due to the production, has grown cavernous; the music feels more organic, an homage to their improvisational style of writing, and the vocals become even more commanding than before.
Primordial are no strangers to lengthier numbers, and Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand is no exception. All of the 8 songs exceed 6 minutes, although they do not outstay their welcome. From the bleak doom of “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” (my personal favorite) to the black metal blast in “God’s Old Snake”, the band flow through styles without losing any of the emotion and atmosphere. Only during the quiet melancholy of “The Mouth Of Judas” do they lose their way and meander a little, but it is far from a weak song. Lastly, as one can expect from Primordial, the album closer “Death Of The Gods” is nothing short of stellar, closing with a solemn quote from Irish rebel Padraig Pearse.
Each song is a journey in itself, and Averill is the guide. His role as a frontman is undisputed, and as a lyricist he covers a wide range of topics from both mythology and history, but does so with a knack to make it accessible to those who aren’t so familiar with the themes. From the far-flung Latvian Rebellion of 1905 to the Irish Troubles closer to home, he plays each role as an actor, whether singing, screaming or speaking. Some may be put off by his slower and off-timing vocal delivery, but for me it works more effectively: “No 4AM whiskey-soaked wisdom or bloody-knuckled politic do I regret”. Several moments send cliché-less chills down my spine, especially the translated quote in “The Black Hundred”: “My nation with fiery iron was beset and slaughtered”. Only once do I lose the references, during the last verse of “Death Of The Gods”, where Irish nationalists and socialists like Padraig Pearse and James Connolly are thrown in a melting pot not unlike Pearse’s speeches as Averill proclaims “this is the death of the Republic”.
Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand is an album that is sure to divide the fanbase, but my personal view is that it’s an album worthy of the Primordial title, if not an attempt to topple the previous releases. One spin does not do this album justice, it’s certainly one which requires time to develop, but if you are patient then it can be a rewarding hour, and it’ll be sure to make my Best Of 2011.
Song to try: