Primordial - How It Ends review
|Album:||How It Ends|
|Release date:||September 2023|
01. How It Ends
02. Ploughs To Rust, Swords To Dust
03. We Shall Not Serve
05. Pilgrimage To The World's End
06. Nothing New Under The Sun
07. Call To Cernunnos
08. All Against All
09. Death Holy Death
10. Victory Has 1000 Fathers, Defeat Is An Orphan
They say you should quit while you are still at the top. For instance, quitting your job for another is usually the best way to get a raised salary. Well, if this is How It Ends, then Primordial is clearly not following this advice.
After the unfuckwithable The Gathering Wilderness and To The Nameless Dead, Primordial's trajectory looked like an ever-growing exponential curve, which admittedly lost some (but far from all) of its steam on the two following albums (Where Greater Men Have Fallen was actually the first album I ever reviewed, way back in 2015 (damn, I'm old)). In fact, the first album of theirs which I could accuse of losing steam was Exile Amongst The Ruins, which packed a bunch of very memorable tracks together with a few that mostly seemed to plod along at their own pace, mindless of what any listener might think.
Five years later, and we arrive at How It Ends, which has been marketed as "probably" the band's final studio release. This obviously sets some expectations, raises a few questions, and feels like the end of an era; some expectations about a high watermark and going out in style, a few questions about what led the band to this decision and what legacy they will leave behind, and the end of an era marked by one of those few metal bands that managed to create (at least one) album(s) that transcend(s) their own discography into the sphere of universal acclaim while remaining true to themselves, whose very name has become synonymous to quality, and who held their banner high for a respectable amount of time after the apex of their career.
Yes, there is a lot of stuff here you already knew, no matter whether you agree or disagree with me, but when it comes to a band like Primordial, it is nigh impossible not to compare any new music of theirs to their past achievements. While this might partly reflect upon the laziness of yours truly, it is actually explained better (while I dodge any responsibility) by the simple fact that Primordial has time and again shown that there are few bands to compare with apart from Primordial itself. Royalty does not mix with commoners, and this is the extent to which I regard Primordial: as metal royalty. Now, expectations are high, so how about some answers to those questions?
How It Ends does not open with a bang like “Empire Falls” nor “No Grave Deep Enough”, but with a title track that builds upon a simple chord progression and, honestly, not a lot of other progression at all. Nemtheanga’s lyrics remain as powerful as ever, but the music itself feels like a retread of much earlier Primordial albums. Like the worst offenders on Exile Amongst The Ruins, it mostly plods along, creating a soundscape fit for storytelling but leaving a lot to be desired musically. This is just the first of several signs that Primordial has been looking back at their own discography when creating How It Ends; the unplugged-yet-metal Celtic vibes of “We Shall Not Serve” calls back even further to songs like “Fuil Ársa” from the 1995 debut Imrama, and the closer “Victory Has 1000 Fathers, Defeat Is An Orphan” (which is one of the most memorable cuts on the album) brings to mind past, pre-The Gathering Wilderness classics such as “Sons Of The Morrigan”.
“Ploughs To Rust, Swords To Dust” sounds like a perfectly anthemic title, yes? It sure is anthemic, with its hooky folk-doom main motif and simple yet effective chord progression in the chorus, but there is some kind of disjoint between the two sides of this song that leaves me reaching for the nearest glue bottle (not to huff it, mind you). The instrumental “Traidisiúnta” (Traditional) is short but sweet (could be longer, and made into a full song, as far as I’m concerned), and on “All Against All” Nemtheanga asks: “Is this the Kali-Yuga you asked for? / Could this be your fall of Rome?”, before bursting out into the only occasion on the album you will hear his harsh vocals, taunting us to ask ourselves “Where is your Ragnarök?” while supposedly asking the very same of the band itself. “All Against All” is an oddball on How It Ends, sort of like “The Alchemist’s Head” from Where Greater Men Have Fallen, and takes some time getting used to, but it is well worth the effort.
However, large parts of How It Ends manage to, even five and more listens later, completely pass me by. “Nothing New Under The Sun” showcases, well, nothing new under the sun, and while half of the main riff in “Call To Cernunnos” is classic Primordial, half of it veers in progressive-yet-not-quite directions which in the end mostly serve to lessen the impact of the entire song. How It Ends, despite being five years in the making and the supposed endnote of the band’s career, brings nothing new to the table, is at its best when recreating past glories, and at its worst when recreating past mistakes. There is no denying the quality of the music, the passion of the musicians, the production values, or any of that jazz; I only wish they had picked some more glories as opposed to mistakes to recreate, because if this is How It Ends, it leaves me with a feeling just bland enough not to make my stomach churn, and that’s not a very good sign.
||Written on 29.09.2023 by 100% objective opinions.|
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