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Label: Metal Blade Records

Date: September 29th, 2023

I’ve got a feeling like I’m a few months late to the party. Probably among the last to review this record, I’m a victim of my own stubbornness. Namely, with bands I adore as much as Primordial, I refuse to check the new records on any of the streaming platforms available. It just doesn’t feel right to me. So, I wait for the physical edition to drop in my hands. To my disadvantage, I live in Serbia which is the appendix of this infested world and therefore nowhere near a priority for any distribution network. Hence, I had to wait for a couple of friends to return from visiting Budapest during Primordial’s promotional tour and bring me this deluxe piece of cardboard and plastic.

Alexandar was the one who brought me the release, with an honorable mention to Stefan who also brought me the release but opted to keep it, since I really didn’t need two. There was a brief moment where I was about to lose both, due to both of them wanting to keep it for themselves, but that was more of a joke. Right?

Anyway, hours on end, day after day, immersed within “How It Ends”, proves once again that Primordial lays comfortably among the most unique acts of extreme metal universe. Fronted by a veritable descendant of poetic monoliths from the islands and powered by the immeasurable talent in the instrumental section, these sons of defiance draw from their native tradition, bringing along a powerful and explosive mixture.

Entering the fourth decade of existence, Primordial offers their jubilee, tenth full length record and, yet again, it is one of definite substance. Though “How It Ends” clocks at over an hour, it rarely has a weak moment. A few sections, arguably, could have been sliced shorter, but in the end, they don’t take away much from the intensity on display here. Agreeing with the said intensity, the band keeps their primary goal in sight the whole time. Atmospheric impact of these ten tracks is unquestionable. While that was ever a strongpoint for them, it is commendable how they still keep to it with such success.

Be it in the grandeur of the first single off the album “Victory has 1000 Fathers, Defeat is an Orphan”, the short instrumental cover “Traidisiúnta” or doomy “Pilgrimage to the World’s End”, these Irishmen build upon their own trademark, only adding spices to enhance the emotion they’re trying to convey. For instance, the mentioned first single (closing the album, to my astonishment) is the catchiest of the bunch and the most prominent in using Irish folklore as well as traditional British heavy metal, but it still lays on top of a disharmonic, post black death metal foundation. The doomy build-in to “Nothing New Under the Sun” leads to ritualistic chant of guitar versus voice, rhythmically led by the hypnotic drumming. “Ploughs to Rust, Swords to Dust” is likely the most “Primordialish” of the album, in that it doesn’t swerve too much from the mothership. With that, it is a strong candidate to sit alongside the greatest songs the quartet has created. Not to mention the lyrics that are so obviously Irish in spirit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, whatever influence Primordial put into “How It Ends” is nothing they haven’t used before. That’s not the point. The band doesn’t reinvent themselves. These guys in particular haven’t done that since they initially found their righteous path, a couple of decades ago. What they are inventing are the ways to keep fresh and bring along a set of great tracks each time they enter the recording studio. Sure, their uniqueness helps, since there is no way the audience can get fed up of this type of sound as there are no bands that follow along Primordial’s path. Still, adding the title track to the already mentioned above, we get a good number of quite valuable keepers on “How It Ends”, which makes the album definitely one worth your while.

And if you happen to come across the version Alexandar (and Stefan) brought me, make sure to pick it up instead of the regular one. Because of the bonus CD, naturally. Including live rarities, previously unreleased demo and a masterful orchestral version of “As Rome Burns”, the disc is a treasure trove for every Primordial fanatic.

Frankly speaking, in this arrangement, “As Rome Burns” sounds absolutely majestic. To a point where I do hope it will give the band an idea in further pursuing orchestral backup. Primordial has never been short of a dense wall of sound, but this sounds above and beyond. For this track alone the bonus CD would be much appreciated.

Then there’s a fairly recent live recording of “Mouth of Judas”, before Primordial shoves us into a time machine and back in the first half of the nineties. A clear indication of where the band came from, comes in the form of their first ever recording. A two-song, never before released, roughly sounding rehearsal demo that shows a group still in the process of finding their own road. Black metal of death in its primordial (pun intended) form, only slightly shifted into what would later become a band we know Primordial to be. Obvious hints towards the heroes of early extreme metal, Venom, Bathory or Hellhammer are omnipresent, but so is the comprehension of the sordid atmosphere necessary for accurately presenting the message.

Most intriguingly, the recording is not nearly unlistenable, as are many that were recorded much later and on much better equipment. Also, the songs themselves are not terrible or even bad. For the period in time and also the posterity, I hear no reason why they weren’t presented at the time of their creation. It would’ve been a decent enough demo in 1991.

As for the closing two tracks, a 1994 live rendition of “Here I am King” and “Infernal Summer”, they show a band already set on their way to greatness (the two are later to become parts of the debut album), but the recording doesn’t do them justice. It is what it is though and there’s little room for complaint.

Actually, there’s not much room for complaint regarding the entirety of “How It Ends”. It is a mature release by a mature band, thought through, nourished and nurtured until it presented itself in all its glory to the hungry fandom. With a bonus CD as contained here, we have been given almost two hours of material to get us through the years lying in wait for the word that it didn’t quite end here.

 

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