ALBUM REVIEW: Suidakra – Lupine Essence

The early nineties was an exciting experimental and developmental time for the genre of Folk Metal. The German outfit SuidAkrA took on this evolving style and meshed it up with Black Metal on their debut album, Lupine Essence that was released in 1997. They were able to uniquely harmonize the two genres and create a memorable and meaningful record that is still considered with reverence in the Black/Folk/Celtic Metal scenes. Now the band is re-releasing their early work with original member Arkadius Antonik remastering each track himself. With new artwork, bonus tracks, and its first release on vinyl, these multi-genre metal veterans are getting a chance to properly present their initial material.    Continue reading

Furor Gallico – Songs from the Earth

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One of the oddest things about metal is how it can strive so hard for originality and identity yet remain so indebted to established concepts and trends that the entire thing becomes an exercise in futility. Folk metal and its offshoots Celtic and Viking metal are three of the biggest offenders, recycling the same old tales of romanticised warriors spurning the advance of Christianity with their noble warriors and earth-worshipping traditions, and refusing to admit that Bathory stopped being good when Quorthorn swapped darkness and evil for pomp and circumstance. Throwing in as many ‘traditional’ instruments as the recording budget allows is apparently a measure of how authentic a band is and in an effort to prove this, Italians Furor Gallico have dug very deep indeed.

While the numerous band members can undoubtedly play their instruments very well, with the jovial Celtic melodies of the tin whistle ever flowing and the soothing violin giving proceedings a minor touch of class, the music itself is so heavily indebted to Swiss neighbours Eluveitie that one wonders why they just don’t declare themselves a tribute act and be done with it. From the budget melo-death riffs that fail to capture the imagination when the aforementioned whistle has ceased to the generic grunts and snarls of vocalist Pagan (yes, really), almost everything on the band’s sophomore effort Songs from the Earth (Scarlet) is derivative, cliché-ridden and has been already been done before and better. Some hope is offered by the Thin Lizzy meets Finntroll mashup of ‘Squass’ and the stirring melodies of ‘Wild Jig of Beltaine’ but this is scant reward for the eye-watering sixty-four minute slog the band have served up here.

If Furor Gallico put as much effort into forging their own identity and sound instead of expertly replicating their elders and betters then they could be something special. Until then, a lowly slot on the Paganfest tour will likely be the pinnacle of their achievements.

 

5.0/10

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JAMES CONWAY

Alan Averill of Primordial – Older. Wiser. Angrier. Part II

 

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In the second part of our two part series of features with the indomitable Alan Averill, aka AA Nemtheanga of Irish extreme metallers Primordial, he discusses with Ghost Cult the veteran band’s eighth album, Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade), and its powerful messages; the band’s legendary anger and intolerance of their homeland’s modern culture in his always thoughtful, forthright and occasionally provocative manner.

 

There seems to be less of a Celtic or Black feel to the new album, compared to songs like ‘Bloodied and Unbowed’ from the last outing. I asked Alan if this was an organic evolution or something the band was striving for?

“I really have a problem with the word ‘Celtic’ or ‘Folk’, but I know you mean the Irish traditional music thing which underpins some of the rhythms and notations in our sound. Nothing is planned though: whatever comes, comes. Take ‘Ghosts of the Charnel House’: the riffs are like Black Sabbath! It’s odd for Primordial, but we’re not one of these bands that’s going to go through an electronic phase or a goth phase, or get a female vocalist and do a folk album, or make an orchestral reinterpretation of our songs. The album’s a continuation of our path, in that sense.

“We’re our own biggest critics too so if it gets by us, then people who like the band, they kind of trust us to be bullshit detectors – which is something that we, and Irish people in general, are pretty good at! It’s a trait of coming from a sort of dark, rainy, gritty, grey, urban landscape. It also stops us taking liberties with each other. Primordial aren’t rock stars, we’re not difficult to deal with. We still get into fistfights with each other for fuck’s sake and we’re 40 years old! But sometimes that’s a better way to solve a problem than to bitch about each other, then have divided camps and end up having to throw someone out.”

You’ve been quite scathing in your views of modern Irish culture in the past. Primordial curated the recent Redemption Festival in Ireland, with some exciting names on the bill, not least The Ruins of Beverast. How well was it received? Have things improved at all?

“A little. Redemption was good. The proviso is that bands have to be our friends to make the bill: we have to either respect them or like them. Without the foreign fans travelling over for that weekend, we’d have possibly been looking at about 60 percent of people showing. But the weekend after Redemption, Dublin hosted Saxon and Hell, then we’ve got Sabbath and Behemoth…people haven’t got plenty of money.

Primordial 3 - by Gareth Averill

“Things have changed for us in Ireland and we have to acknowledge that. But we’re still not particularly well-known and I would always look on myself as being at odds with the Irish mainstream musical culture. We’re not looking for acceptance, but Ireland is very ‘anti-rock’ despite breeding Rory Gallacher, Lizzy and all that kind of stuff. Popular music culture – and by that I mean the sense of ‘dumbing-down’ everything – has reached some sort of ultimate victory in Irish society, which is deeply unfortunate and something we stand against, but what can you do?”

It’s been a busy eighteen months or so for Alan and for Simon (O’Laoghaire, Primordial and Dread Sovereign drummer). 2014 saw new albums from those two bands, and 2013 saw the emergence of Alan’s trad metal project Twilight of the Gods. I asked Alan where middle-aged guys get such energy from?!

“From my own point of view, I’ve always kept myself fit: I’ve always played sports, I’m always running… I’ve always done things like this which means I can play harder in other aspects. Maybe it’s also because I don’t have kids, family, a mortgage, other such responsibilities the other guys have which obviously wear you out. I’m quite intense and always feel I have to have a challenge or a major obstacle to overcome. The Twilight of the Gods album was a challenge of my willpower: with Dread Sovereign, I told the guys ‘we make an album and within fifteen months we’ll be on tour’. That’s exactly what we did. That’s my way of doing things I guess: don’t fuck about!”   

primordial-uk-2015 Primordial are bringing their famed live performances back to the UK and Europe from the end of January. What can fans expect when they take …Greater Men… to the streets?

“Well we’ve recently played six or seven songs in Dublin, so we’ve more or less played the whole album live. I think our future will see these ‘blitzkrieg’ weekends, two or three shows with proper support acts, and people will undoubtedly have to travel to see us: the chances of seeing us on a Tuesday night again, in front of 80-90 people in a small town, are pretty unlikely. What with our age and the economics, it’s just not feasible anymore. But we’re playing Glasgow, London and Manchester, and we just added Portrait to the London show which is killer. With the performance, we’re going to try and add a few different things, but it’ll still be Primordial.”

 

Amen to that. It’s a nice line on which to finish, Nemtheanga in high demand and already having overshot our allotted time. This interview was conducted some time before the recent horrors in Paris, which I don’t doubt Alan would have had a view on and which bear out his comments on the evils of our time. It is a harsh world we live in, and long may Primordial highlight and protest against its folly and iniquities with such stirring, emotive yet violent music.

 

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Words by PAUL QUINN

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

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The toms stir, an introductory galloping battering, a rhythmic tribal call to arms, as the simple lead guitar line rides up and down the front of the horde, rousing, preparing, hinting at what is to come, as the opening track of Where Greater Men Have Fallen (Metal Blade) builds to kick into a timeless opening, an initiation where all the trademarks of the very best of Primordial are evident. Our title track erupts  with ‘Hammerheart’ (Bathory) meets ‘Blood Of My Enemies’ (Manowar), driving, open, churning chords and Alan ‘Nemtheanga’ Averill’s distinctive, powerful vocals, preaching, imploring and then leading a stirring chorus to what is, unconditionally, one of the anthems of the year.

After a gap of three and a half years since the Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand this is a mighty return, with the weight of expectation not just shrugged off, but decimated by the pounding Pagan Metal delivered by the hands of the best in the business. For, at their peak, Primordial have no peers in the field of the epic.

Emote is what Primordial do best, and this is an album that drips with feelings of regret, reflection and, conversely, inspiration; Averill’s intelligent themes, authoritative words and voice enhance the profound interplay of Ciáran MacUiliam and Michael Ó Floinn’s guitars, whose interaction on tracks like ‘Come The Flood’ call to mind Anathema’s grandiose The Silent Enigma (Peaceville). ‘Born To Night’ gradually unfurls to reveal a ‘Battle Hymn’ most proud, while ‘The Seed of Tyrants’ releases the rage, nodding to a more extreme past, both musically and lyrically. While Primordial are oft mislabelled as a Black Metal band, ‘…Tyrants’ serves as a reminder from whence they came, but, as ever with those touches of class the band possess to enhance, colour and immerse.

Yet, this is not a flawless album, as with blood both stirred and pumping by our introduction, ‘Babel’s Tower’ and ‘The Alchemist’s Head’ are downers; decent if unspectacular down-shifts of pace, which, while still intrinsically “Primordial”, call to mind the unhurried moments of Imrama (Cacophonous), and despite Averill’s impassioned story-telling, neither grab or evoke like the opening track, or the crushingly pessimistic ‘Ghosts of the Charnel House’. That can be the problem when you start that strongly, as it is a high watermark for the rest of an album to live up to.

After establishing their sound on second album A Journey’s End (Misanthropy), it has been since their fifth album, The Gathering Wilderness (Metal Blade), that the band have truly matured and hit an exceptional run of form that takes them into Where Greater Men Have Fallen, their eighth full length, and its moving combination of classic Bathory inspired metal, doomier tropes and an unmistakable grasp of the epic, all draped in those characteristic Primordial effects.

Yet, are Primordial victims of their own success? The previous three albums are of such a high standard, and are pregnant with anthems that, like the title track or the exceptional closer ‘Wield Lightning To Split The Sun’ – murky, bleak, earnest, wringing with remorse and possibly the best piece of music the band has delivered over the course of their career – means that when Primordial deliver “good” it can, initially appear disappointing.

Bookended by two incredible tracks is a layered, powerful and impassioned album, resplendent with mood changes, from reflective, to angry, to moving – the leads that pull ‘Born To Night’ to its close soulfully uplifting – and to judge by the merits of others Where Greater Men Have Fallen stands tall. Yet measured by their own imperious canon, this latest release, while showcasing everything that is respected and esteemed of Primordial, is not first among equals.

Primordial are too proficient an outfit to release anything other than an excellent album. Just how excellent, when compared to their own standards, is the question at hand, but Where Greater Men Have Fallen is laden with dark anthems and fervent sincerity and, chest out, stands proudly as a laudable addition to a most impressive catalogue.

 

8.5/10

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STEVE TOVEY

Darkest Era – Severance

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Pitched under the banner of Celtic Metal, Darkest Era’s second full length, Severance (Cruz del Sur), shares more with the Dark Forest’s and Slough Feg’s of this world than it does with a Cruachan or Waylander. With elements of Atlantean Kodex and Trouble prevalent, it is an album borne more of the traditional metal vein than any of the blackened folk ilk that usually fall under that description. That’s not to say there aren’t traces of black metal in their sound, but this tree is rooted in classic metal.

 

While vocalist Krum (anyone for Quidditch?) rightly takes plaudits for his strong, powerful clean vocals, it is the excellent dual guitars of Ade Mulgrew and Sarah Weighell that keep the ante well and truly “up” throughout with some crushing gallops. In between they flit seamlessly between clean passages and Di’anno-era Iron Maiden harmony riffs and trade-offs, before scooting back into well-crafted and heavy classic metal riffs.

 

‘Sorrow’s Boundless Realm’ leads the way, an acoustic build up into a blackened riff, before the anthemic ‘Songs of Gods And Men’ stirs and rouses, calling to mind more recent Primordial (they can be forgiven for stealing the middle section and solo from Thin Lizzy classic ‘Emerald’). ‘Beyond The Grey Veil’ is a slower, more considered piece, leading to a doomier outro that calls to mind New Dark Age Solstice.

 

 

Come the second half of the album, the gauntlets are off and Darkest Era tear their way home. ‘Trapped In The Hourglass’ nods to Grand Magus before we move via the fist-pumping ‘The Scavenger’ and ‘A Thousand Screaming Souls’ to round things off expertly with the heroic ‘Blood, Sand And Stone’, an epic that spirals off via a dual-guitar build into a soaring lead, with Krum trumping his previous excellent work, fully opening his diaphragm to earnestly guide the ship home.

 

Mixing NWOBHM and epic doom, Darkest Era’s sophomore effort is an album of stirring and impressive classic metal, and is a call to arms that deserves to be answered.

 

8 / 10

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STEVE TOVEY