Hey, I’m not gonna lie. The money’s good. Hell, the money’s great. Why, just last week I took my Last Rites paycheck down to the local BMW dealer and bought a brand new i8 for the express purpose of immediately driving it into the wall of an Olive Garden, just because I hate the idea of endless breadsticks.
Here’s what I don’t like about the gig, however: The compulsion to quickly process a high profile release and regurgitate a pile of (hopefully) compelling words to swiftly catch eager eyeballs before twenty other similar joints do the same.
Question: Should anyone be convinced of the shit or shine of a record based on a couple weeks of play or less? Probably not. But that’s how we roll in a world that continually encourages churn & burn, and where no one seems to have the patience to let anything open up and breathe for a while.
But yeah, here I am complaining about dissecting a hugely anticipated album that I’m lucky enough to get my hands on early. Cry me a river.
There’s no denying that ears itch with excitement when a record such as Where Greater Men Have Fallen lands. Fans crave Primordial‘s irrefutable focus on delivering smart, brooding, intensified passion that’s further amplified by a sensible method of spacing a couple/few years between each release, and critics enjoy poking their heads in the door to see if the fellows behind the instruments have finally managed to parallel the absurd level of emotion belted out by vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga.
Right off the bat, the key element that allows Where Greater Men Have Fallen to stand out is the fact that the music manages a new level of galvanization capable of a triumphant strut even without Nemtheanga behind the mic. That’s not intended to be a shot fired across the bow of the music delivered on paragon releases such as The Gathering Wilderness and To the Nameless Dead, but rather a testament to this record’s overall choice song-crafting, and to the band’s decision to put hammer to anvil in a different studio.
Album number eight from these gloomy Dubliners truly feels like someone finally opened up all the goddamn windows and shook out the blankets. You can really hear bassist Pól MacAmlaigh, for example, and he lends a considerable amount of heft to each tune, particularly the iron-fisted pummel at the heart of the doomy “Babel’s Tower.” And although Primordial’s natural tendency to refrain from beating you over the head with luminous melody and pretty leads still prevails, more weight is given to the melodic edges, particularly toward the close of the epic “Born to Night” and the album’s poignant closer, “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun.”
The turn toward a rawer, more resonant production also further stokes the already furiously-heated forge at the heart of Nemtheanga’s vocals. His performance throughout Where Greater Men Have Fallen is, once again, exhilarating – managing to deliver as much intensity and charged emotion as Eric Adams circa 1982/83, but with a more aggressive, more lion-hearted approach that’s obviously devoid of wailing falsettos (and fur codpiece… For now). To spotlight a single moment: 5:20 into “Come the Flood” is pure, savage emotion that’s free of the fetters of unseemly studio trickery. Wash the blood from my hands, indeed; this is the motherfucker you want warping trepidation into triumph and leading you straight into Armageddon.
And holy Lord, “The Seeds of Tyrants” – this is Where Greater Men Have Fallen‘s grand leveler. Terrifically turbulent and hellfired from the onset, only to drop the Allfather of heavy riffs at 2:50 to make damn sure your head is good & flattened. Zounds. And to follow that with “Ghosts of the Charnal House” – a cut that boasts the ballsiest riff to spring from the Primordial camp to date – that’s the sort of one-two punch that’s bound to inspire folks to re-think a supposedly set End of the Year Top Ten List.
But will this record finally herald the skeptics’ apocalypse? Probably not. The band still takes a core idea for each tune and essentially drives it straight into the sternum for 6-plus minutes per round. In that regard (and some others), the record remains brazenly Primordial from its epidermis down to its marrow. But there’s also enough inventiveness and a renewed vigor and POWER to definitely allow Where Greater Men Have Fallen to stand out.
The heaviest Primordial album to date, for certain. Whether or not it eventually eclipses an already impressive body of work, however, depends entirely on plenty of time spent spinning yet another triumph from one of metal’s more potent bands. Be sure to crank it on the big speakers.