Primordial // Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Et tu, Brute?
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: primordialweb.com | myspace.com/primordialofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.25 | US: 04.26.2011
I guess it was bound to happen, eventually. One of the bands I used as the pillar of consistency in my eyes, several times I might add, has kind laid an egg on this one. Primordial has been a band to look up to for a very long time, for me, having never produced what I consider to be a mediocre record, they’ve soldiered on in relative obscurity up until 2007’s utterly superb crowning glory in To the Nameless Dead. Normally when a band has a “post-great album slump,” it happens because of pressure to produce, but it has been all of four years since Primordial released a record and so I can’t even blame the label, on this one. This one just loses me in the middle (trust me, I’ll explain).
Of course, the underground has been up in arms over how awesome it is that the band didn’t just follow up To the Nameless Dead with an equally as awesome record, which is the expected response. But I can’t help but wonder why this response is considered the appropriate one. The meme is basically “Yeah! Way to produce a record that isn’t as good as the last one!” It’s kind of insanity, really. But let me quit complaining about the response and get to the reviewing here. As I’ve said, I really have liked Primordial‘s output for a long time. They’re like an extension of later Bathory, in a way, with long songs and Quorthonesque vocals from Alan Averill, but then add the Irish mix into it and some of the most thoughtful lyrics in the history o’ metal, and you end up with a truly successful, unique and interesting band.
Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand doesn’t really pick up where To the Nameless Dead left off. Instead, I’d say that the similarities are more akin to Spirit of the Earth Aflame or A Journey’s End, though realistically the majority of the band’s material is pretty similar. So the feeling must be in the songwriting quality and the ability to maintain these long, drawn out tracks while keeping listeners interested. The record starts out pretty well with “No Grave Deep Enough” and “Lain with the Wolf,” which both have similar strains. There’s less energy, maybe, but the tracks have good melodies, feeling and for the most part lyrics. The main melodic riff in “Lain with the Wolf” is classic Primordial, hard to go wrong with such a feeling.
Where the record starts to lose steam with me is “Bloodied Yet Unbowed,” which is mostly dirge and kinda just misses the mark. While the following track “Gods Old Snake,” is a great improvement and has a driving riff that I really dig and hints at some of the more driven material from To the Nameless Dead, “The Mouth of Judas” loses me entirely. I wouldn’t say the song is a ballad, but it starts out with a bit of an acoustic bit and is again very dirgey, but the issue that I have with it is just that it drags on and on. While the song is 8 minutes long, I swear I got lost in it two or three times before I finally even finished the album. I can’t explain it, it just loses me. And so while the record does pick up steam after that track with “The Black Hundred,” the track “The Puritan’s Hand” is excellent (probably even my favorite), and “Death of the Gods” is an epic that, while it doesn’t have the emotional poignancy of earlier epics, is still amazing. It’s the lag in the middle that just sucks the life out of the record for me.
This is still an album with 6 great tracks, and I think that anything other than a piece of genius handed down by the Metal Gods themselves would’ve been a bad follow up to To the Nameless Dead, which is a modern masterpiece. But had they cut those two dirges it would’ve been about 45 minutes of excellent songs and a better record, in my opinion. That said, I certainly was not a fan at all when I first received the album, but now I’ve warmed up to it some. Fans should probably check this out and apparently many already have done so illegally (such respect!) and love it. But I cannot say that I’m convinced.