No matter the time of year, it’s always winter for Norwegian black metal legends Immortal. Feeling nice and warm and looking forward to summer? Don’t be silly. Just one listen to the latest album War Against All (Nuclear Blast) will have you pining for the fjords and wishing the world was a dark, grim, and frostbitten kingdom of cryptic winter storms.
Reactivated tech-death pioneers Pestilence recently confirmed that their new album, Hadeon, will be released on March 9th via Hammerheart. Along with that confirmation came the ‘Multi Dimensional’ single, and today another new track has made its way online. Continue reading →
After forming in 2003, Dutch quintet Kjeld has finally got round to releasing their debut album, with the wait presumably down to the difficulty the band has had in translating their lyrical concepts of anti-cosmic mysticism and the nature of death into the Friesian language, a difficult tongue to master. Well, the wait was worth it, for Skym (Hammerheart) is a suitably grim piece of Second-wave worship that fans of Gorgoroth and Enthroned will lap up like blood from a chalice.
With a knack for imbuing searing black metal riffs with a feeling of unease and coldness like the true greats of the genre, the band members have evidently put a lot of thought and effort into crafting the songs for this debut effort. The slightly murky production, with the snare drum in particular high in the mix, ensures that the atmosphere is claustrophobic and full of dread while the pace remains varied throughout.
Although rooted in the light-speed riffing of the Norwegian great and good, as demonstrated on the aggressive opening salvo of ‘Tûzen Sinnen’ and the title track, the lurch into mid-paced suicidal depressive black metal territory on the Forgotten Tomb-worshipping ‘Gerlofs Donia’ is evidence that the band have a few tricks up their sleeves, further demonstrated by the monolithic power of classy album closer ‘Bern Fan Freya.’
While their fellow countrymen Sammath failed to stake a claim for the importance of black metal from the Low Countries with the disappointing Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart), Kjeld has proven that relatively gimmick-free black metal still has a future and that there’s a lot to be said in waiting to ensure you get your debut release right instead of rushing things and being disappointed with the result. On that basis, Kjeld have begun their career in just the right way.
Let’s get it on the table – Godless Arrogance (Hammerheart) is well played and excellently produced with a good energy. Frontman J. Kruitwagen unleashes powerful, feral howls, and Koos Bos shines with a 36 minute holocaust from behind the kit. This is a decent black metal release with very obvious Gorgoroth and Immortal reference points.
However, for all its competency, like so many faceless corpse-painted albums before it, Godless Arrogance is pointless. It has no personality, no individuality and serves no real purpose. Not every album should, or can be boundary pushing, but sticking rigidly to a style and formula that has been stuck rigidly to for nigh on twenty years by countless others leaves them in the middle of an unspectacular and very large pack.
Black Metal is intrinsically a scene of contradiction – claiming rebellion and anarchy while entrenched in blatant retrospection and reverence to a select few hallowed reference points. But these days it’s a blunted rebellion, stunted by a refusal to move beyond a formula that was first laid down 25 years ago by Bathory and then refined and defined by Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor et al.
Staring out the window wistfully, a half-grin plays on the lips as fond memories tickle the brain of a time when black metal was exciting and boasted creativity and diversity, when acts mutated and pushed boundaries. Sadly Godless Arrogance, for all its’ sonic strength and no matter how well played it is, lacks any desire to be anything other than just another black metal album. If they were alone in their Gorgoroth/Immortal worship, then I might think more kindly, but it’s over 20 years since Pure Holocaust (Osmose) and 19 since Antichrist (Malicious). The repetition of sound and style by Sammath and others is well beyond boring now.
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.