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A Journey walked anew... - 100%

The_Grimner, February 9th, 2005

"It paints many bleak and barren landscapes, heavy with tragedy and melancholy. I have a feeling we may never make an album like that again."

Alan Averill, on the liner notes for Spirit The Earth Aflame


Hmmm, never say never, Alan. Sitting here, with my copy of "The gathering Wilderness", listening to it for the nth time in I don't know how long, what does spring to mind are bleak and barren landscapes, heavy with tragedy and melancholy. I won't be the first to point it out, but this latest offering bears a lot of striking resemblances to Primordial's "A Journey's End" revelation. Their two subsequent albums were incredibly powerful and mighty affairs, but the dominant feeling there was one of victorious epicness, a triumphant defiance if you will. Now, with this album, things are more downcast than they have ever been in the Primordial camp. At the same time, this is easily their best album, and, though it is only early February, I think it safe to say that this will be the best album of 2005. Yes, it's THAT fucking excellent.


Perhaps what is more striking about Primordial is their uncanny ability to have forged a style all to themselves. Not the hillarious prefixes po-faced black metal bands add to their music, like the "misanthropic pagan winter satanic nuclear holocaust black metal that respects the sabbath and keeps sunday to be with old grandma" attempts most bands recur to to masquerade the fact that they actually sound like everyone else. I mean an actually unqualifiable sound, wherein the roots are imediately recognizable, but blended and transformed into something altogether new. This has very strong Folk roots, but at the same time, it is Folk unlike the norm in Metal.

Music-wise, we're on familiar Primordial territory, broadly speaking. Ciaran still uses all the remainder tracks available at the mixing desk for his multilayered wall of noise guitar sound that is pinned to the ground by the heaviness of the rhythm section of Pól and Simon. We heard this on Spirit and Storm already, so the only surprise is the way they have managed to take that basic blueprint and give it a complete overhaul to fit this album's definite dark feel.

And there is where Alan steps in and truly comes to his own, I think. The time spent in Void of Silence obviously did him "good", in that he sounds sadder, gloomier, more desperate and angrier than ever before. Hear him roar and vent his bitterness on "End Of All Times", wail his sorrows on the staggering album highlight "Coffin Ships", or snarl his hatred on "Tragedy's Birth".It's nearly impossible not to feel a little bit guilty that we're getting such enjoyment listening to what almost sounds like the public exorcism of his inner demons. Though the melancholy feel is ever present on all tracks, the effect would not be quite as devastating without Alan's plaintive, melodramatic, suffered vocals, that make this album unique in that it achieves more than most bands who devote themselves to one single range of emotions do, and beats most of them on their turf. This is in some aspects darker than most Black Metal bands, folksier than most Folk Metal bands, and gloomier than most Doom Metal bands.

Ultimately, that's what is setting them apart from the rest of the pack. They have forged a sound that is all ecompassing, that can portray a wide array of emotions, and still sound instantly recogniseable, and with an identity of its own. The perfect score, is, thereore not a mark I attribute lightly. Flawed as all human creators are, they can sometimes summon forth works of art that are, quite simply, flawless. This is one of them.