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"They echo down through the ages" - 80%

CardsOfWar, December 1st, 2014

Primordial are a band that have always had something to say. From the nostalgic national romanticism of their earlier releases, to the nihilistic rejection of those very same ideals in 2007’s masterpiece To the Nameless Dead, Primordial have always wanted their music to have emotional and political meaning beyond its mere compositional structures and forms.

In spite, however of all the innate focus on politics and history found in The Gathering Wilderness, it still manages to avoid the prototypical problem with overtly political/didactic music of an overwhelming emphasis on message over good songcraft and musicianship. The songs on The Gathering Wilderness dynamically rise and fall like the olden empires Primordial is so fond of; tied together by the signature burning guitar lines the band are known for, and carried along by frontman Alan Averill’s impassioned vocal cries. The vocals are and always will be a highlight of Primordial’s work, but never so much as on The Gathering Wilderness; Averill ranges from his standard bellowing cleans, to harsh screams, to sinister whispers, to feeble, triumphant background humming. “Who casts the shadow upon our age?” he asks at one point; a resounding open question that seems to encompass the shining past, the bleak future, and everything in between, made only more powerful by the devastating vocal style used to deliver it.

With all that said, The Gathering Wilderness is not without its fair share of problems. In terms of the realisation of overall musical aims, The Gathering Wilderness is largely lacking. Individual verses and riffs stand as recurrent, self-contained events, rather than contributing to a broader musical narrative. An overwhelming emphasis is placed on making each individual component as good as it can be, without really any significant contribution to a broader picture. The occasional poorly placed lyrical passage certainly doesn’t help in this regard either. “Sometimes I get to thinking about the past, when I’ve had more than a drink or two,” sings Averill on the largely pointless final track; A line that, given the clean, easily understandable vocal style with which it is delivered, and the unusually misplaced confidence Averill has in the verse is enough to pull even the most entranced listener out of their reverie.

Through the paragraph preceding this one, the impression may have been given that The Gathering Wilderness is at its core a flawed or unenjoyable album, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s full of downright inspired moments and ideas. Compositionally, The Gathering Wilderness leaves very little to be desired, it’s just that conceptually, it’s emblematic of a band that knew exactly what they wanted to say, but were still searching for the perfect way of saying it.