Primordial, "Storm Before Calm"
Now, this one came out of nowhere. I'd heard one Primordial track on a Blackend compilation, but never gave it much attention. Now I have their new full length in front of me and this is easily some of the best stuff of the year. Primordial are a black metal band, but they have every bit as much romantic doom in their blood as they do grim frost, and on top of it all is a heavy Celt vibe coming from the galloping 12/8 sections and haunting melodies. Vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga gives a superb performance, throwing in everything from black metal rasps to Quorthon-esque croaking, to a gruff, melodic bellow that just soars on the few occasions it happens. He knows when to lay back and let the instruments work as well, though, and it's a good thing because guitarists C. MacUilliam and M. O'Floinn write some beautiful music. They sometimes step into ambient dissonance ["Cast to the Pyre" is very reminiscent of Morgoth's eerie coda on "Odium's" "Golden Age"], but otherwise almost always play it melodic and midpaced, writing dense arrangements for up to three guitars at a time while never losing the melody. Bassist P. MacAmlaigh holds down the bottom with solid bass lines and occasionally breaks away from the guitar riff to add yet another layer to the mix. The songs are simple and lengthy, but expertly composed and trance inducing in no small part due to the sometimes-hypnotic blasting of drummer S. O'Laughaire. Frost and Fenriz come to mind, and the style works perfectly when it's used. He's also adept at keeping a nice 12/8 backbeat going, with lots of ride and kick to keep the downbeat riffing from hanging itself on it's own sadness. Add to the musical richness an equally impressive sixteen page booklet, complete with lyrics and song notes, and the package is complete. Primordial have served up a platter of beautiful, doom-infested black metal that will hopefully to see them catapulted to the highest level of the hierarchy.