Storm Before Calm (Re-issue)
Re-issue of a classic, but not the most wanted bonus material
Primordial was one of the bands who invented Pagan black metal. This Irish group ever since the early nineties have always produced album after album with a swath of progression, at first creating full on raging black metal and slowly incorporating folk elements and melodies into it. Everything is done on guitar though; no flutes, no keyboards, no drinking song tunes; just raw, spiritual power. For the past few years record labels have been digging up the older albums by this band and re-issuing them for fans to hear. Sadly these re-issues are not the best marketing projects; they may be remastered, but still basically sound the same as the originals without any difference in sound, nor much bonus material. There is a DVD of a life performance, but when it comes to music CDs, they should just include music, such as bonus tracks, demos, or live performances, rather than something one has to get up and put in a DVD player as opposed to just enjoying the entire album through a CD.
For those who don't know Primordial very well, this is the album that really gave them some attention. It was heavy, epic, and beautiful for its time, and really pushed the boundaries. The only other band that was really pushing the limits like this at the time was Emperor, but sadly they are gone, and only Ihsahn is left to continue the legacy. Thankfully, Primordial is still with us, and even those who haven't heard this in a while and may have given it away or lost it will be happy to hear it again. The opening track, "The Heretic's Age”, is heavy and brutal, being unrelenting like the storm the album tries to capture in atmosphere, with a mix of snarling and clean, accented vocals. It's not the best example of Primordial at their Pagan best, but that's for later. "Fallen for Ruin" starts out with clean acoustic melodies before the black metal comes pounding in, but it isn't senseless like before; there is still some rhythm to it that makes it very engaging. Halfway through, there is a clear ambient section that sounds like rain through the distortion and then a melodically heavy outro.
"Cast to the Pyre" was the most experimental track for them on this album as it changed up the entire sound with long, dissonant chords and almost whispered vocals. Indeed, this is when Primordial made their stand for atmosphere rather than just black metal itself and it work(s) beautifully. In contrast, "Sun's First Rays" falls back on nearly incomprehensible black metal that just blares furiously at its greatest extremes. It's a bit too extreme at times. Thankfully there is the sole acoustic "What Sleeps Within" that just uses guitar and nothing else. "Sons of the Morrigan" is another excellent Pagan lore track that keeps it heavy while injecting great doses of melody, no matter how distorted, and finally the album closes with "Hosting the Sidhe”, another nearly full instrumental track, but again, Primordial likes to change things up. The atmosphere of the track is static and choppy through use of the electric guitar, and then the spoken words begin. They chant and rave calmly while the music plays on until everything fades and the listener is only left to wonder...
Were there possibly some bonus tracks like acoustic recordings of some of the heavier tracks, demos, or even live performances to really show how the band does with a live presence, then this would have been a fantastic re-release. As it is though, the DVD is good, but just doesn't really live up to the expectations of a re-release. Old fans will probably ignore this if they already own the original copy and scorn the label for just trying to make money while new fans who do not have this album will probably buy this because it has the same value as the original, with a slight extra bit involved too. But, mostly this should be directed for the new fans, or die hard fans who collect re-issues for whatever bonuses they bring.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)