I’m tired of hearing how U2 is Ireland’s greatest musical export. Maybe at one time that was true, but they’ve dissolved into the very thing they always seemed to be against. For us metal fans, the best thing ever to come from that land is and always will be Primordial.
Ever since the band’s start two decades ago, Primordial have gifted the world with records that explode with passion, anger, sadness, and regret. They’ve dug up history and challenged organized religion, pounded the drums for freedom, and always given us music in which we could believe. From their thunderous start on 1995’s classic “Imrama” onto where they stand today, Primordial have become one of the most important and respected bands in all of metal. And they have yet to let us down artistically over the course of their first seven albums, their most recent before 2011 coming on “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand,” a record that stood out before you heard any music simply from its uncharacteristic white cover.
As 2014 was growing long in the tooth, it seemed we wouldn’t hear again from Primordial until early in 2015 (or so we were led to believe by myriad online reports). But the pronouncement of their eighth record “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” would arrive late in 2014 and gave us reason to be excited for the colder months. Once the music permeated our senses, it was clear we had in our hands another vital document in this band’s history. From the throbbing opening title track (is there a band that opens records better than these guys?), to the dark “Babel’s Tower,” into grittier cuts “The Seed of Tyrants” and “The Alchemist’s Head,” Primordial proved their messages are as bloody honest and relevant as ever, and that their creative spark is burning heavily.
Primordial vocalist Alan “AA Nemtheanga” Averill was kind enough to answer some questions about the record over e-mail. You’ll see from his short, direct responses that he didn’t want to mince words and instead got right to the point. He also corrected a few of our assertions, which is great because that’s why we asked the questions. Averill was the man with the answers, and he let us know exactly what we needed to and nothing more. Our thanks to him for his time and to the entire band for a glorious new album.
Meat Mead Metal: “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” is No. 5 in our annual Top 40 metal albums of the year list. It’s another passionate, vital entry not only into the Primordial canon but into metal lore in general. How do you feel about the band’s accomplishments on this record now that it has been released into the world?
Alan Averill: It’s just another chapter for us, you know? Never thought we would get to album number 8 but here we are. We just took our time and (waited to) when it all fell into place.
MMM: From the bio that accompanied the promo of the record, it sounds like the music came together pretty quickly. Talk about its creation a bit—what you wanted to say musically and lyrically, why now was the right time for the record to come into shape, how the creative process progressed.
AA: Well, yes and no. Once we moved to the rehearsal space at the start of the year, things began to happen with more haste, but some of the ideas had been around in one shape or another for a while. Like I said, things take some time, and we don’t plan a long time ahead. It just worked out that 2014 was the right time.
MMM: The title of the album and the accompanying title track are interesting choices. The song seems to speak of people not learning from history and having to suffer the same heartbreak and tragedies all over again as a result. What is your particular inspiration for this song and for making this the title of the record?
AA: The pivotal line is really, “They promised the century to you, and all you did was bury your dead.” It’s really about the promise of the 20th century delivering bloodshed and warfare on a greater scale than anyone imagined. Shattered hopes and empty rhetoric. Economics and power. Violence is the prince of this world.
MMM: “Babel’s Tower” is another standout track, both musically and message wise. There are many ways one could look at this song, from its Biblical story, to the way people rejected progress and understanding over the years, to passing judgment. And perhaps my way of hearing the words is off base. What is the journey you hope people take with this song?
AA: It’s a simple song about misunderstandings and the pivotal line is, “I preached the world was flat.” It’s my way of an apology for preaching something I did not believe in.
MMM: The video for the song is an engaging piece, one that hooks you and makes you follow the hooded figure’s journey until the reveal at the end. Video seems to be a lost art, but Primordial obviously still embrace the medium. What do you feel the clip does to enhance the song and deliver its messages?
AA: We wanted something more cinematic and arresting. Not the usual band in a warehouse headbanging thing. I guess most metal videos are missing some imagination. You can make something like this with a reduced budget. For us it was just a new challenge.
MMM: The band’s sound has grown very organically over the years, from the grislier, blacker earlier form to the way more melody and majesty have been incorporated into the sound. Do you see Primordial’s sound as much a living breathing thing as much as its members are? If so, where do you go from here?
AA: Again I hear this, and it’s for the most part not true. The new album is far darker and grittier then “Journey’s End,” for example. The opening track on “Imrama’ is just 4/4 rock n roll. I have no idea. We don’t think about it.
MMM: There are some tracks that have some of those heavier elements we heard from Primordial earlier in your career—“The Seed of Tyrants” and “The Alchemist’s Head” are examples. Was it a conscious decision to take things a little heavier in spots on this record, or is it just how things worked out?
AA: Again, nothing is decided. We write what we write, and if we are happy with it, then this is what you hear. Nothing more and nothing less really. The band is heavier than we ever were, if you ask me.
MMM: Primordial have had so much to say about history, humanity, wars, and the way certain forces prevent people’s freedom. Do you have hope for humanity? Do you feel we’re in a dark era from which we’ll never emerge?
AA: “The Seed of Tyrants” states, “Remove the tyrant and a dozen will take his place with ever greater bloodlust.” The future of this world is dictated by power and economics, therefore the future is only the jackboot upon the throat of humanity.
MMM: What does the band have planned for 2015 as far as touring? You have a slot of Maryland Deathfest in May. Can we expect any other U.S. dates around that appearance?
AA: It looks unlikely we will play other shows around the festival, but hopefully we can come back later on in the year. America is a hard place to tour for European bands, but we will try again.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.primordialweb.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords
For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/