‘Gods to the Godless’ is as close as you’ll get to Primordial live without seeing them in concert

primordial-coverIf you ever get a chance to see Primordial, you absolutely should do it. I don’t care what you think of the band, whether you love them, hate them, or are indifferent. Once you experience the band live, there’s no doubt you’ll either walk away an even bigger devotee or a convert who finally saw the light.

I saw the band for the first time in the late spring of 2015 at Maryland Deathfest where, even in the broad-day sunlight, they were a total force of blackness. Their Celtic-and-black-tinged metal sounded as epic and righteous as one could believe, and it was a live experience I cherish to this day and beyond. If you’ve never had a chance to see the band before, their new live record “Gods to the Godless (Live at Bang Your Head Festival Germany 2015)” is a pretty good representation of what you’d hear live. On this 11-track collection that does a nice job spanning most of the way across their career (they don’t touch their first two records “Imrama” or “A Journey’s End”), they took to the stage July 17, 2015, and completely dominated. From singer Alan “AA Nemtheanga” Averill’s opening salvo, “We are Primordial from the Republic of Ireland, and I have a question. Are you with us, Bang Your Head?” it’s off to the killing fields, where the band unleashes anthem after anthem, bleeding passion throughout.

Naturally the set opens with “Gods to the Godless,” from 2000’s excellent “Spirit the Earth Aflame,” as the band—Averill, guitarists Ciáran MacUiliam and Micheál O’Floinn, bassist Pól MacAmhlaigh, drummer Simon O’Laoghaire—are in command, mixing in Celtic melodies along with the crunchier sequences. They then shoot back to their most recent LP “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” with sweltering “Babel’s Tower” and the title track, proving once again their meddle is as strong as ever. “No Grave Deep Enough” sounds even more defiant than it does on “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hands,” with Averill wailing, “O, death, where are your teeth? That gnaw on the bones of fabled men?” It bursts with energy and pride, as you pretty much can imagine Averill prowling the stage and wailing his diatribes. “As Rome Burns” reaches to “The Nameless Dead,” as the pace is pulled back a bit, though the performance and atmosphere are as heavy as anywhere.

Averill opens “The Alchemist’s Head” by reminding that the song is about poet and Romantic Age pioneer William Blake, as the band draws from their most recent record. A somber dark opening sets the stage for when the thing rips open in earnest, and it’s one of the more sinister songs on the record. It seems defiance always is a theme with Primordial, and they unleash more of that with “Bloodied But Unbowed,” a track they dedicate to the band Portrait before they launch full bore. “The Coffin Ships” manages to be just as spooky here as it is on “The Gathering Wilderness,” with them trudging through open space, with torches held aloft into the fog. “Heathens, raise your fists!” Averill demands at the front of “Heathen Tribes,” pulling their participation throughout the cut. Once it gets fully under way, it makes your heart surge blood throughout your body in a way only Primordial can. “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun,” the final cut from the latest album, is called a pagan anthem and it unfurls over the crowd. It’s a spirit-rousing track, uniting those who truly do stand with Primordial, and it paves the way for cataclysmic closer “Empire Falls,” one of the touchstone songs of the band’s run, which is the great exclamation point at the end of the set. “We are in the death throes, but we will not go down without a fight,” Averill howls, having no idea how close to home that would hit a year and a half later. The band does an amazing job delivering this, making hairs stand on your arms, with you pretty damn sure you’d head right into battle with them.

If ever you have the privilege of seeing Primordial in the flesh, you really should jump at the chance. They’re one of the most in-your-face, forceful live acts in all of metal, and they should be ranked up near the top in live experiences. Personally, I’m already hungry for a new full-length from the guys, but I certainly don’t mind reveling in live versions of some of their best songs until that day arrives.

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/