Our top 10 Primordial songs introduce us to an Irish band known for its influence in the extreme metal music genre. Guitarist Ciará MacUiliam and bassist Pól MacAmhlaigh joined hands in forming the band in 1987. The bad began playing under the moniker Forsaken, having it include Pól’s brother Derek. At this time, the band played a blend of early thrash and death metal, with their performances covering Sepultura and Death songs. The band would later make an advertisement for a metal core singer specialist on a post. According to the band’s founding members, the ad stayed not more than two hours, having vocalist Nemtheanga respond almost imminently to the ad. After joining the band, vocalist Nemtheanga pursued a darker direction thanks to influence from Celtic Frost, Bathory, and other emerging black metal scenes.
The band became the first black metal-styled band to sprout from Ireland with the release of the demo Dark Romanticism in 1993. Primordial would later sign with Cacophonous Records, with whom they released their 1994 first studio album Imrama. While the band’s debut album was characterized by black metal melodies, Primordial refined its metal sound into extreme metal. The band’s music has been described by many as a blend of folk, black, and Celtic metal. Primordial later toured with other notable metal bands, including Immortal, to popularize its music in other European nations. It took the band quite sometime before being appreciated in the US market. January 2006 marked the first time for Primordial to appear on their first US show in 2006 in a metal fest that Swedish Viking metal band Thyrfing and Finnish pagan metal band Moonsorrow were guests. The band’s lineup has barely changed, with only Derek being replaced by drummer Simon Ó Laoghaire since 1997 and the addition of guitarist Micheál Ó Floinn in 2001. Here are the top 10 Primordial songs from the band’s nine studio albums.
#10 – Exile Amongst the Ruins
Opening up our top 10 Primordial songs list is the ballad “Exile Amongst the Ruins.” The song is an original composition by MacUiliam featured on the band’s ninth studio album Exile Amongst the Ruins. The song features some Celtic influences with direct doom and metal that draws influences from Black Sabbath and Candlemass. “Exile Amongst the Ruins” is quite an emotional song that features a simple story of a soldier’s fate that takes place almost every time. The song is set in Ireland about a century ago to vividly bring the song’s dark theme.
#9 – Empire Falls
To the Nameless Dead was the band’s pivotal release having it help the band achieve consistency in its art and musical style. Released in this album in 2007 was “Empire Falls,” a masterpiece extreme metal ballad. The song also features black metal roots, predominantly having the band influenced by acts such as Bathory. You can’t help but love Alan’s vocals, making him one of the finest metal vocalists alive to date.
#8 – Gallows Hymn
Also from the band’s album, To the Nameless Dead, is “Gallows Hymn,” a moving metal song by Primordial. The song starts with a commanding sublime bass sound that has both the drums and guitar feel suffocated in tune. However, as Alan comes close to showcasing his vocals, the guitars come on prominently, injecting you with the electrifying vibe of this slow song. Despite the song being a slow metal ballad, the drummer does an excellent job of matching up with the song’s atmosphere.
#7 – The Coffin Ships
“The Coffin Ships” is one of the best releases from the band’s album The Gathering Wilderness. Released in 2005, the song lyrics were inspired by the 1845 to 1852 famine in Ireland, famously known as Irish Potato Famine. The song’s title references ships that ferried Irish emigrants out of their homeland only to die at sea. Some proposed that “The Coffin Ships” refer to the ships that ferried food from Ireland to England despite the nation facing famine. The ship carrying the emigrants represents the coffin while the emigrants represent death.
#6 – Bloodied Yet Unbowed
Number six on our top 10 Primordial songs list is “Bloodied Yet Unbowed.” Micheál Ó Floinn wrote the song for Primordial’s seventh studio album, Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand. “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” features fantastic lyrics delivered on a beautiful and powerful metal instrumental. After almost two minutes of the song’s intro, Nemtheanga brings on his tormenting voice, which is uniquely powerful in this emotional song.
#5 – Stolen Years
“Stolen Years” is an aching song from the band’s album, Exile Amongst the Ruins, which came after almost a four-year music release drought. The song moves along a crawling tempo with thunderous percussion counters that counters the song’s melodies. “Stolen Years” features some aching chords before Nemtheanga brings on his panged vocal tone. His vocals hit with direct energy exerting an undeniable urgency in this song that blends black metal and Celtic folk vibes.
#4 – Wield Lightning to Split the Sun
“Wielded Lightning to Split the Sun” is a magnificent release described by Primordial as a Bathory epic ballad. The song was written in forty minutes in the band’s last rehearsal for its album Where Greater Men Have Fallen. “Wielded Lightning to Split the Sun” features some pagan and heathen elements, making it feel like one of those famous German pagan metal anthems. The song is one of the band’s favorites for live shows.
#3 – To Hell or The Hangman
Primordial impressed the band’s fans with “To Hell or The Hangman,” a bravura metal song featured on the band’s most recent album Exile Amongst the Ruins. “To Hell or The Hangman” takes a differing approach compared to the song “Stolen Years,” featuring a steady and upbeat gallop. The song’s tune weaves in a gloomy melody that connotes a sense of disaster. “To Hell or The Hangman” features a tale of unrequited love with a murderous culmination.
#2 – Babel’s Tower
“Babel’s Tower” was released in 2014 in the band’s album Where Greater Men Have Fallen. The song’s powerful dark and melodic vibe makes “Babel’s Tower” one of the best Primordial songs. Primordial invested in the song’s cinematography which complements the song’s dark theme. Around the fourth minute in the song, Nemtheanga hits a note that might remind you of vocals from Led Zeppelin’s vocalist Robert Plant. The song lyrics allude to miscommunication between people and misinterpretation of languages after lying to oneself and getting stuck in a lifestyle.
#1 – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Number one on our top 10 Primordial songs list is the album titled song “Where Greater Men Have Fallen.” The song serves as a superb opener to the album, with its lyrics inspired by a book vocalist Nemtheanga read about the 1894 Chicago World’s Fair. “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” exhibits how people looked forward to the 20th Century when nations were obsessed with unrivaled affluence. However, the nations rammed into the World War, and now we are all looking at the war on the fringes of Middle East nations and Europe. The song shows how we might be winding up to yet another chaotic era.
Feature Photo: Henrik Heino (Username: Henu), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons