Primordial is one of those bands known for their legacy and for Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill’s highly distinct voice. Having recently gotten into them last year, this band has shown that their brand of extreme metal comes with philosophical references and a folk tonality that borders on regal. If there is a band I can consider a classic in their genre, it’s Primordial, as their 30-year career can attest. With Exile Amongst the Ruins, Primordial brings their well-known sound and lyricism to the forefront, giving the listener a worthwhile experience on a much-anticipated album.
Exile begins with “Nail Their Tongues,” a song that brings the toiling of bells as an ominous offering of what’s to come. The song itself is paced and heavy, fully bringing black metal tonalities to the surface. It almost feels like the listener is tasked with a heavy burden that they must take care of, and it can only be lifted once the album is complete. From that point forward, the album moves into melodic tones that bring some vibrancy and color to the bleakness of the album. Intertwined with these melodic tones are chanting, tribal touches, and vocal theatrics that express the emotions the music sometimes cannot. This is evident in “To Hell or the Hangman,” whose melodic metal influence takes full advantage of the vocals and becomes a moving piece of music that stays with you long after the song ends. After this, the music returns to its pacing state, placing more emphasis on its Celtic folk roots and the melancholy that underlies the melodic tonalities of the record.
What really makes the album stand out for me is not just Averill’s vocals or the music, but the rather melancholic tone of the album. Granted, a lot of the emotion comes from the vocals, which surpass the quality I had heard in Where Greater Men Have Fallen. However, where Greater Men felt prophetic and full of rage, Exile feels prophetic and melancholic. There is something about this album that seems to foretell the end of something, and while the interpretation of what that something is is completely left to the listener, Averill has given some insight into it:
There’s no overriding theme on this one, but I’ve thought a lot about the loss of our ancient European magical systems, the loss of our spirituality and our suicidal headlong journey into amoralism and decadence, which is where the title comes from.
Perhaps the exile that Averill references is the disregard of what we have lost for the sake of building our own history. His melancholy – and, by extension, the melancholy of the album as a whole – is for the history and the evolution of a society. It seems we have lost touch of who we are as we’ve progressed into something more concrete and acceptable, and those who have refused to change now stand exiled amidst what they had.
Despite all of this, the music itself isn’t innovative – at the core of it all, Exile is a tried-and-true Primordial record which is what has made Primordial such a successful band over the years. However, it seems that Primordial has been able to get away with staying the same because they have been at this for so long. If anything, Exile is more accessible than its predecessor, as it cuts straight to the point instead of lingering in the majestic. Nonetheless, Exile is an excellent record and one that many will enjoy if they decide to be open to it.
All in all, Exile Amongst the Ruins is an excellent record, even if there’s nothing new or innovative about it. This is an album where Primordial can rest upon their laurels and be content with what they have. Although this album might be considered to be a small disappointment in an otherwise impressive discography, this is still Primordial at its core.