Following their return from hiatus in 2014, much to the delight of a sharp, in-the-know fanbase, Norway’s In The Woods… showed a glorious return to form with 2016’s Pure (Debemur Morti), an album that wasn’t a re-treading of past glories, but an alternate and matured direction for the band that highlighted their esoteric nature. Ever the shape-shifters, latest release Cease The Day (Debemur Morti) sees further subtle alterations, in what is their most commercially ambitious and accessible (within reason) to date. Continue reading
For many metal fans, metal is the form of music that speaks to them the most during dark times; music that isn’t afraid of the subject of low points, crippling mental health or exploring unyielding sorrow, and thus is often that supporting and helping crutch we often hold on to for dear life. It is in this school of harrowing thought that Puyallup, Washington’s Ergo I Exist dwell in with their debut album The Depths providing an emotive ride into the abyss. Continue reading
One of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2018 back into the spotlight. Jokes about another musical project impeding the appearance of a new Tool album aside (categorically untrue, but funny) the much-loved and missed band hasn’t so much as roared back into the light to get our attention, as they rolled through with a purposeful stride and made themselves known by clearing their throats. “Ahem. Pay attention dumbass.” What presents itself for inspection might be the best release from the band yet.
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.
After a time of dormancy, A Perfect Circle sprung back to life a few years ago, determined to be an at least be an occasional live entity. At least that is what Billy Howerdel and Maynard James Keenan prefer for the fate of the band, lest they ruin the spirit they created together as composers and mutual muses. It has been good to see the band take up short tours, perform residences, or big international festivals the last few years. In addition to the release of the live box set Stone and Echo, the band also has a new greatest hits album out called Three-Sixty (A Perfect Circle Entertainment/WMG). Notable is the inclusion of the first new song from the band since 2004, ‘By And Down’.
Greatest Hits-type packages are an entire other can of worms unto themselves. In the past, when a band started to rise rapidly to fame, usually on the strength of a hit album or a a string of singles, labels would put out a “best of” collection to capture that interest and keep building the following. How many bands of the last generation actually have real hits? Songs that have merits artistically, yet actually become popular a rarity, which makes revisiting these APC tracks a real delight. Not only are they merit-worthy, most of them are memorable earworms, thanks to Mr. Howerdell, Mr. Keenan, and the other talented members that have come and gone. Especially the Mer De Noms and the Thirteenth Step material in particular. I always felt eMotive, save for a few songs, was lacking some of the sizzle of the original albums. I will say the deluxe edition has chill-inducing versions of ‘People Are People” (Depeche Mode) and ‘Fiddle And The Drum’ (Joni Mitchell) covers.
As for ‘By and Down’, it’s what you’d expect from a new APC track. It’s musically tight, and deeply moving. I’d say the deluxe edition of Three-Sixty is worth the purchase for long time fans for this new song and the live tracks, and the standard version is for you if you have somehow slept on them up until now.
Keith (Keefy) Chachkes
The premise of the super-group is a always an exciting thought, especially when the members come from some of the most innovative bands in rock music history. However, combined forces don’t always pay off, with some groups failing to deliver collaborative goodness. A Perfect Circle is one of the super-groups to emerge from said crowd that actually have some substance behind their well-known names and with a new album looking unlikely in the near future, the band have decided to keep their name relevant with a box-set release featuring live recordings of all three albums, plus their 2011 performance at Red Rocks.
Whether or not you’re A Perfect Circle fan, listening to the live renditions of Mer de Norms, Thirteenth Step and eMOTIVe does allow you to both appreciate the love the band has from its fans, as well as the quality of their live musical output. On excellent form not twice but thrice, Tool front man Maynard James Keenan is superb for each of the album recordings here, as are Billy Howerdel and co behind him, with their alternative rock noise sounding as relevant today as it did when first recorded. As for their show, their covers of ‘Imagine’, ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ and ‘What’s Goin’ On’ act as major highlights, as impressive new song ‘By and Down’ sees them recalling their more melodic days of recent times.
The question with this box set however still remains: is it a viable purchase? For fans, it’s a yes and for anyone who hasn’t seen the band perhaps it’s another yes but if you did’t enjoy A Perfect Circle before, there really isn’t much here that will sway your opinion or your credit card, regardless of the quality tunes at hand. An indulgence rather than a necessity, Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo features some fantastic music but it also sounds like the actions of a band that are trying to keep their fans, despite the fact that they haven’t offered anything (with the one song exception) new in nearly ten years. There’s a whiff of a distraction technique in the air with this box set and it’s a costly one too.