Most of our frequent visitors will know what the Loudness War is, and if you don’t, our affiliate Metal-Fi can bring you up to speed. Overly loud production has brought more than one good record to its knees, which is agonizing because it’s such a pointless waste. And the worst part: it’s both incredibly prevalent and hysterically futile in metal. The practice arose predominantly to stand out on the radio, but there’s about 3 metal bands that appear on the radio to begin with. Meanwhile, the most egregious offenders have to be played at half-volume to avoid ringing ears and migraines, completely defeating the purpose and merely drawing attention to how absolutely shit it sounds. So let’s take a look at Primal Attack, playing soon at half-volume near you!
Let’s start off with the good, and in fact, there’s a lot of it. Primal Attack play thrashy melodic death in the vein of The Haunted but run it through an ‘actually any good’ era Machine Head filter. There’s also a strong Pantera presence in the ‘fuck you’ attitude, most clearly enunciated on the aggressive opener “Red Silence.” While my favorite lyrics tend to be the philosophical or the sardonic kind, I’ll be the first to admit how much fun some juvenile asskicking hooligan-metal can be. The shout/growl (showl?) vocals are par for the course but they get the job done. The same goes for the (actually somewhat audible) bass.The guitars on the other hand are way above par. We’re talking eagle at least. While the palm muted chugging is simply apt and pummeling, the solos and leads have an addictive, catchy litheness. It’s not terribly new for anyone who regularly listens to classic thrash but the execution is spot-on and it brings out the best of tracks like “Halfborn.”
All of this is for naught because of the production. It is so goddamn loud I am genuinely forced to turn the volume way down to preserve my ears and equipment. The lower registers buzz and clip, the waveform continually pushed to the very brink. The moments where the bottom-end drops out are the most tolerable because they’re not direct assaults on the eardrums and it’s nice when your skull can take a moment to stop vibrating. At least Akoma had the decency to make a genuinely terrible album. Primal Attack simply made a genuinely good album untenable even for casual listeners. Only low quality car speakers might be able to make this sound tolerable, if you’re willing to risk them blowing right out of the car doors.
To be fair, it’s not a perfect album that got violated here. Some tracks, like “Strike Back,” feature the kind of lo-fi shouting that got old before the nu-metal craze was even halfway done. Calling it a homage or throwback is arguable, but it distracts and detracts from the otherwise able performances. Furthermore, there is not a terribly large amount of variety from song to song. It doesn’t detract from the songs themselves, but the album as a whole feels more like a candidate for mixing into a playlist than something to be experienced as a whole. These might be nitpicking, but I’m just trying to establish a silver lining: we didn’t lose a 5.0/5.0 here.
A final eulogy, then, for a young rebel taken before his time. Please, gather round. Heartless Oppressor had a whole life ahead of it. It popped out of the womb with unbridled aggression, coupled by some nostalgic touches of varying effectiveness. Its fury and technical skills will not be forgotten. But loudness claimed its life, as it has so many others. The Music Industry works in mysterious ways, and all we can ask is why? Why must you take the good from us like this? The Music Industry never answers. It will look down, bare its spit-flecked teeth, and grin maliciously, but it will not answer. We are left with naught but the carcass of an album that could have been. In the name of the Wilson, the Parsons and the holy Swanö. Amen.