Primordial: To The Nameless Dead

If I had to pick the most unappreciated band of 2005, it would be Primordial. The Gathering Wilderness, an album that any good soldier of metal should have, well-worn, in their archives, was the epic black metal sleeper hit that never did. This review is dedicated to the memory of The Gathering Wilderness. It’s an oversight we’re all going to regret after hearing To The Nameless Dead.

Okay, so it’s not as if Gathering Wilderness is out of print. You can pretty much find it. Even much of their older material is available for the tepid eBay buyer. I sent someone all the way to Portugal to get me a copy of Storm Before Calm. It was totally worth it.

And so it is with To The Nameless Dead. It’s the rare kind of metal you have to go on a quest to write. It did take the Irish quintet over two years to write this album, and they haven’t been that heavy into touring. I’d like to think they’ve been questing, if that’s a word.

But metaphors aside, this isn’t your tongue-in- cheek super-clean lead-heavy epicness, rather a raw black metal/ Celtic folk-inspired assault of never-wavering high-tempo picking, stretching into the nether reaches of the soul and returning stronger, usually eight minutes later. The trio of guitarist M. O’Floinn, guitarist C. MacUilliam and bassist P. MacAmlaigh are relentless, absolutely immediate with a constant pounding of riffs, usually allowing a only brief respite, and overlaying their heroic structures with equally victorious leads.

Drummer S. O’Laoghaire shows incredible restraint (and a penchant for waltz time), breaking out the double kick only when necessary, and instead working the cymbals and hi-hats with consistent precision. Singer A.A. Nemtheanga overflows with powerful, masculine emotion, with a style that emulates powerful war speeches and the occasionally demon-extricating scream. It’s brutal.

And brutal themes for brutal songs. “Gallows Hymn” tackles the inevitability of death and the failures of the living. “Heathen Tribes,” the hallowed defense of homeland against invasion. “As Rome Burns,” Nero. Fucking Nero.

Unequivocally the best release of its kind, if there are even any competitors, this year.

In A Word: Grand