with Grand Magus
and Mael Mordha
The Underworld, Camden, London
2nd February 2008
All live pics and review by HannTu
Primordial’s latest album TO THE NAMELESS DEAD came out to general critical acclaim last year. I was seriously blown away by the depth of the songs, the maturity of the writing, but most of all the atmosphere and feeling it exuded. However it appears that many people seem blissfully unaware of this band’s existence, despite being on a major label. While not claiming to have heard every metal release for the past x years, I feel that Primordial gave us something truly special with that album, which was second on my best-of list last year. Without giving too much away, and with great hopes that the bar has been set this high, Primordial delivered an early contender for my personal live performance of the year. Let the pictures tell the story…
Considering I’d only heard of Primordial for the first time in my life when the promo plopped into my mailbox last year, I did a bit of research into Irish metal and sadly came up with very little (Thin Lizzy anyone?). However, the name Mael Mordha cropped up more than a couple of times, but I never bothered to check them out. My loss then, and one I shall swiftly rectify in the near future.
I heard a band that played some really good Celtic-influenced, pagan doom metal. Comparisons with Tyr and Wintersun may not go amiss. But what I saw was a stunning performance on stage that came replete with Irish pan pipes and a deep horn that could be heard and felt over the mix.
Believe me, I’m putting this band quite high up my “To Check Out” list, simply on the strength of their performance on Saturday.
Cripes. I reviewed this band last year when they opened for Firewind. Reading it back, I may have been slightly unkind, but only very slightly. Doom just isn’t my thing. Going back to Metal-Archives (my source for everything it seems), some reviewers even complain that it is too power metal-ish. In that case, I think I’ll leave proper doom well alone for the moment. The riffs are well-executed and there were some really good leads and solos, but the lack of zing on stage just doesn’t do it for me. However, other more enlightened and discerning people around me gave the band a resounding thumbs up, enthusiastically cheering, clapping, singing along and headbanging, so the band must be doing something right. They also played a new song, “Beyond Good and Evil”, which will be on their new album titled IRON WILL (if my memory hasn’t completely failed me).
Beyond Good and Evil
Baptised in Fire
I got a bit of a shock when Primordial’s lead singer Alan Nemtheanga bounded onto stage for their set. I had interviewed him earlier in the day, when he was wearing a blue bandana. I had no idea he had a shaven head, which made me question whether it was really him, especially under his war paint. There was no mistaking the tattoos on his arms though, as well as the intensity that was already apparent sitting down conducting a calm chat about inane matters, let alone being on a stage with 600 wild metalheads chanting and screaming.
Intensity. I’d never seen the likes of it before. Intensity and conviction. Passion and honesty and emotion. Face contorted and eyes bulging and spitting daggers and glaring, Alan controlled that tiny 15 foot by 10 foot soapbox like no other frontman I’ve seen. It was utterly intense. Readers will forgive me if the pictures are mainly of Alan. He mesmerised, to use a tired old cliché, like a cobra fixing its deadly gaze on the helpless mouse. Twice as deadly and just as venomous too.
The rest of the band were less demonstrative but certainly NOT subdued. Alan was there to provoke and deliver the anguished vocals (and he did), but the band was there to provide the backdrop to the experience. The simple/complex epic soundscapes of Primordial’s sound are the distinguishing part of their music: the organic thump of the war drums, the wall of sound drone of open chorded guitars and the brooding bass driving the melancholy march forward.
As “Empire Falls” kicked off, you knew you weren’t going to leave early. With the crowd singing “Where is the fighting man!” and Alan in everyone’s faces constantly, it was the perfect opener. They surprised me by going to a slow moody song next, but dear reader, believe me when I say it was…intense (I may wear that word out sooner rather than later). “Gallows Hymn” is my favourite song on TO THE NAMELESS DEAD, and to hear that depressing inexorable bass intro was just hair-raising.
I’m afraid I cannot recall much of the rest of their set, except that they sounded as organic, earthy and genuine as on the records. As Alan said in the interview, they came through some troubled times in Dublin while growing up, the kind of poverty and graft that tended to kick the fock out of any big time Charlie. No prima donnas here. Primordial are proud of having stood strong for what they want to achieve, when they want to achieve it and with who. Many bands repeat the metal mantra of “We don’t bow to no one, fuck everyone else”, and yet it remains just that, just lip service. Primordial are likely to remain out of the mainstream spotlight for quite a substantial part of their careers. They may end their careers never having done an American Ozzfest headlining tour or having appeared on the cover of Guitar World magazine. One gets the feeling that they don’t really give a damn. As they have repeatedly said on numerous interviews: No Compromise. Not Now. Not Ever.
The Golden Spiral
As Rome Burns
Sons of the Morrigan
Song of the Tomb
The Coffin Ships
Gods to the Godless
More Mael Mordha
More Grand Magus