Friday, August 27, 2010

Primordial - To the Nameless Dead


This record seems to be well on its way to heavy metal immortality. Judging by the hype on the internet (this site in particular), this seems like the kind of album that could cure cancer upon listening, the album that ends world hunger, brings peace to Earth, and makes Lars Ulrich die. But in all honesty, I fail to see the mythical life affirming beauty of it all. It's almost like everybody on the planet is Roddy Piper from They Live, donning special sunglasses that allow them to see things that others can't, and as such they begin to know everything, kick innumerable amounts of ass, and spew ridiculous one liners. Everything I look for in a metal album is here to an extent, but it never fully manifests itself effectively. The atmosphere, the instrumentation, the emotion, it's all here, but I have a painfully hard time finding a really solid backbone to any of it. It's like a steak scented mist. Sure the aroma of a porterhouse steak is tantalizing and mouth watering, but it's moot point if you never get to bite into the meat, and that's what this seems to be. To the Nameless Dead has all the superfluous goodies that could make a good album great, but instead makes a mediocre album pretentious.

The songs are all relatively lengthy, which isn't something to complain about necessarily, but when nary a one memorable segment, riff, hook, melody, build up, climax, or anything of the sort trots along, then it ends up being frustrating. Take As Rome Burns as an example. It starts off decently enough with a solid atmospheric backdrop, but is marred by a nearly unnoticeable progression and an obnoxiously long middle section of near nothingness. The climactic scream after said drum section is completely predictable and disappointingly weak. It's like a really really long knock knock joke... an incredibly lengthy build up to a punch line that everybody knows ahead of time and just isn't funny. This happens time and time again throughout the course of the album. To keep with this theme of comedy, I'll say that the album seems to think that it is George Carlin, but it simply lacks his knack to tell really bad and kindergarten level jokes in a way that is hilarious. To tell the truth, I can hear potential for an incredible atmospheric black/folk metal band, but it doesn't seem like Primordial is fully developed yet, which isn't good considering they have a decent catalog of full lengths.

The other approach the band likes to utilize is the cock tease route. While the aforementioned routine of always being sickeningly "almost there" is indeed one way of teasing, the more outwardly frustrating route is the "blow and stop" routine. Whereas most songs they are akin to your girl doing a sexy striptease dance, but never actually touching you, songs like Heathen Tribes and Failure's Burden are more like dancing for a bit, then unzipping your pants and giving your schlong a good two or three oral bobs before tearing away and dancing again. The two songs have some extremely good parts sprinkled throughout them, but swap back to the agonizing quality of "almost". This could be so much more than it is, and it is saddening. Maybe I just won't be happy until Aria Giovanni descends from the heavens and fucks me for thirty years straight, but I sure as hell don't think my musical standards are too horribly high. I want to love this, but the songs seem too content to just sit at the end of the ledge and enjoy the view instead of plunging into the depths of memorability.

One thing I will say though, is that the vocal performance is great. It comes off as almost Warrel Dane-ish at first with the over emotive and key wandering warbles, but they quickly become fantastic when one takes into account the lyrics. I find the lyrics to be really heartfelt and earnest and I think that it really shows through in Nemtheanga's performance. In fact, the lyrics are kind of the glue that brings the scattered bits of greatness together, but the band needs to realize that gluing a bunch of shards of glass together won't make a good mirror. The lyrics, musicianship, emotion, atmosphere, songwrtiting, and delivery all need to be forged into the same piece of glass for this style to work properly.

To the Nameless Dead is the perfect example of an album that could be the greatest thing in the world, but just doesn't execute it properly. Throngs of folks seem to think that Primordial has already reached this level of perfection, but I cannot say such a thing with a clean conscious. I can understand why so many people like this, and I can see the mastery where it is, but I can unfortunately also recognize the parts where the mastery is conspicuously absent. The patriotic anthems ring loudly and proudly, but I find recalling them after a good night's sleep somewhat difficult, whereas I could probably whistle Phobophile whilst comatose. The album doesn't need to be hooky to be memorable, but this one just seems to fall somewhat flat. I guess I just haven't seen the fnords yet, perhaps one day the cosmic wonderment that apparently dwells within the music will strike me, but until then, I'll just be the guy on the sidelines, mumbling to himself. So it isn't instant gratification, but in doesn't seem to slowly slither in either, it just sits around and waits for you to accept it as gratifying as opposed to making you believe. And that is, quite frankly, fucking backwards.

RATING - 65%

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