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

Primordial - Redemeption at the Puritan's HandI 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. Primordial - by Gareth AverillThe 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.

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  • Soze

    I’m currently listening to this for the first time and loving it, quite bamboozeled by this review!

  • Within Darkness

    Can’t even judge what the hell is wrong with me and this record, it just doesn’t click on me that way. Yet I might be following the pattern of what you said for I had troubles with 4-3 tracks which are now gladly reduced to 2 and those same aforementioned are still kindda problematic. Let’s see if I’ll manage to make friends with them, anyway.

  • Ernesto

    I’ve disagreed with Ulver’s review, but this shocks me. Without any doubt, this albums enters my top 5 of the year, no matter what is yet to come. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as “To the nameless dead”, cause, as you’ve mentioned, that album is a modern masterpiece, but I’d put it in the same level to “The Gathering Wilderness”.

  • Razorhog

    What Ernesto said. I’m new to AMG, and I’m trying to get a feel to see if I can depend on the album reviews to match my tastes. Not looking good after this one!

  • Alex

    This is one of those albums that grows on you. once it gets in your head, you can not get it out. I think this could end up being one of Primordials best.

  • James

    Overall, I’d say that this album is actually better than “To the Nameless Dead” in that it flows better and has a more coherent overall atmosphere. I must disagree with the reviewer about “The Mouth of Judas”, which I feel is one of the strongest tracks on the album (though I agree that “The Puritan’s Hand” is definitely the best song here). I mean, come on, that one line where Alan wails “It casts NO SHADOOOOOOOWWWWW upon the waves” almost made me have a seizure from the chills it sent down my spine.

  • Heartily disagree on this one. All 8 tracks are fantastic. I’d easily give this one a 4.5.

  • NSX

    all i know of this band is the coffin ships track in your top 100 and the “unbowed” track from this new one. The strength of these 2 tracks alone tell me that the band is something special.

    On a separate note, why is it fair to knock off points for including a track or 2 that you don’t like? The album still runs 45 mins without them so you could just play it without them? If all reviewers looked unfavourably on an album for that reason it may effectively reduce artists’ propensity for risk tasking.

    Would you have rated the album higher if the tracks were omitted? Or called it too short?

    • I have never called an album too short. Never. Less is more, in my opinion. Bands often include too much material, I think the editing process is incredibly underrated.

  • Ernesto

    In addition to my earlier comment, I can’t see how Vomitory’s narrow death metal release gets a higher calification than Primordial’s new opus. Even when Vomitory did a good death metal album, it’s the same old stuff as usual, while Primordial always give it’s best to put out mature and passionate records.
    Also, I agree with James and his opinion about “The Mouth of Judas”. Despite it is not a typical Primordial song, it undergoes many climates, and the guitar section in the middle stunts me. But for now, “Lain with the wolf” it’s my absolute fav.

    • I think the Vomitory record is a better record, because I like it better. In fact, I like it *a lot*. Whereas the issue with the new Primordial record is that it loses me. I don’t think any record that makes me want to skips tracks deserves anything better than a 3.5 and any record that makes me skip TWO tracks is definitely a 3.0. Not to mention the fact that Primordial is a favorite band of mine and that means that the record is also a disappointment. Remember, ratings are also for the record as a *whole*, which a lot of people forget. A record that has great feel and pretty good tracks may actually be better than a record that has some great tracks but a poor feel.

      Also, since ratings are ultimately a totally subjective experience on which there are no actual criteria to base “real” ratings, I think you should stop feeling so concerned about the fact that we don’t agree about the new Primordial record.

  • Kevin

    In the world of metal you cant compare bands that want to stay with the same formula to bands that are progressive.It doesnt make sense.You rate a death metal record for what it is…death metal,or a progressive metal record within the spheres of its own genre.I like Primordial and can appreciate what theyre doing,but the vocals have always put me off.Great music though.

  • Topy

    Interesting review… I agree with the overall picture, yet for me personally “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” is a highlight rather than a low point! Yes indeed, it is near impossible to properly follow up “To the nameless dead”, but were this an album by any other band it would probably be rated much higher, as it is still an excellent album – maybe just not quite as excellent as one has come to expect. Primordial may have lost a little bit of its power, but being the mighty beast they are they still have plenty left.

    • perfect comment. am in total agreement. bloodied yet unbowed is a phenomenal track!