"The Gathering Wilderness"

(Metal Blade)

01. The Golden Spiral
02. The Gathering Wilderness
03. The Song of the Tomb
04. End of All Times (Martyrs Fire)
05. The Coffin Ships
06. Tragedy's Birth
07. Cities Carved In Stone

RATING: 8/10

Distill the choicest elements of BATHORY, ENSLAVED and NEUROSIS, and add the mournful echoes of the sorrowful past of their native Ireland, and you'll at least have a starting point for dealing with PRIMORDIAL. The raw, bleeding emotion they wring from the most simple, hypnotic, swelling riffs is astonishing, and the pathos of A.A. Nemtheanga's vocals could drive the sun from the sky. These morbid pagans have brought their sound to a whole new level of intensity without making many surface changes — "The Gathering Wilderness" is their finest hour.

The album art sets the perfect tone for the music — gray, bleak, sodden and chilly. Most songs are based in a 3/4 beat, giving them a traditional, folky feel even when they get loud and abrasive. Guitarwise, think black sheets of cold rain, nonstop and oppressive, big basic chords that add a droning heaviness to these long (shortest track: 7:42) songs. PRIMORDIAL are masters of the slow build, letting songs creep up on the listener, subtly shifting in intensity until the most basic riff and beat have swelled into a frightening crescendo.

Over it all, Nemtheanga utters a primal howl that's somewhere between a "clean" vocal and a yell, with occasional turns toward a black metal shriek. His voice is almost completely naked in the recording (itself a miracle in this age of ProTooled overproduction), and it drips with pain and empathy. In a just world Nemtheanga would be ranked up there with KATATONIA's Jonas Renske and MY DYING BRIDE's Aaron Stainthorpe — he's that powerful, even with an unconventional, commercially suicidal voice.

The rough-edged, poisonous, fogbound atmosphere of "The Gathering Wilderness" is certainly not something most mortals could consume in large doses — leave it on repeat for a few plays and you may find yourself sipping absinthe by candlelight, cursing fate, and giving your wrists an experimental poke or two with the point of a dagger. But what better mood to evoke when the subject matter is injustice, famine, and the impending collapse of all we hold dear! Born of ancestral grief, the music of PRIMORDIAL is a doom-laden dirge for a land soaked in tragedy and shackled by its past. Sorrow has rarely sounded this inviting.


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