Released: 2007, Metal Blade
Primordial have done it again!!!
I don’t know why I love this record, I just know that I do. It’s slightly different from what they have previously done (more on that later). Is it because I’m so sick of the metalcore/melo-death dross that seems to keep popping up endlessly ad nauseam, that any departure from that painful monotony is welcome? Is it because Primordial are so underrated? I don’t know, but TO THE NAMELESS DEAD is an awesome record.
However, there are noticeable differences in Primordial’s sound this time around. The black/shrieked vocals from the early days of IMRAMA, A JOURNEY’S END and even later albums is now almost completely gone. Nemtheanga, Primordial’s vocalist, has adopted the mournful, heart-rending style of wailing that we found on their later albums. It is a voice tinged with regret, sorrow, anger and strength in almost equal proportions. It is designed to evoke introspective thoughts one moment and excite rebellion in another.
Another slightly less noticeable difference is the more restrained use of folkish instruments, or even acoustic instrumentation, as was found more abundantly in their previous albums. In its place is an even more epic, “wall of sound”, droning hypnotic guitars and slightly muffled drumming – giving a dreamlike feel of surreal unreality. The atmosphere created is spine tingling. This could be the soundtrack to one of your nightmares, where you’re walking in an endless forest, with no end in sight, on and on and on…
The songwriting is so strong that I cannot praise it enough. Simple lyrics but with a bittersweet tang that is especially poignant if you have even a working grasp of Irish history, especially in the context of colonialism, revolution, suppression, famine, separation and sectarianism. Of course, Primordial would have put it more subtly than I have, without resorting to such crude categorisations. But the themes of war, sacrifice, rebellion, hardship and religion are prevalent throughout TO THE NAMELESS DEAD, where even the title of the album could be taken as some allegory to the nation’s fallen heroes of independence. The geographical and topical scope of the album stretches well beyond the green coasts of Ireland, where Primordial travel to the ruins of Rome, “to the fjords of Hordaland/Shadows of ancient Albion”, “from the frozen Baltic” to the “battlefields of Flanders”. But “(they) know that (they) are home at last” when “to Ireland (they) return. It is poetry in motion, verse set to music…
Yes, this has to be one of the best records of 2007. It stands well out from a lot of the metal – which while sometimes enjoyable is neither intelligent nor original nor even well-played on occasions – that is pumped out nowadays. Buy TO THE NAMELESS DEAD, and support great metal that is original and that actually has something to say.