Primordial are far more than just the most respected extreme metal band from the Emerald Isle. Record after record the band have skewered expectations, ripped down false idols and mourned (yet demanded we learn from) the horrors of human folly. Newest Metal Blade long player Where Greater Men Have Fallen is no exception, more proof that it is better to make art you can stand by than to cater to shifting whims and trends. The opera Thespis once pondered if men would do as good a job as the Gods of Olympus if they switched place. Primordial similarly hold our choices up to the light yet eschewing the vanity of any pantheon or limited religious orthodoxy. They illuminate through exposing shadow, howling at and through the abyss of human hypocrisy. “Our world, like a charnel-house, is strewn with the detritus of dead epochs,” said Le Corbusier in the 1920’s. Primordial, more than pretty much any other band, remind us where we have been, where we could be and the cost of willful ignorance.
“I sat in Babel’s tower and judged the world/Said I spoke the language of saints and sinners/But preached the world was flat/And slipped between the cracks” – From “Babel’s Tower” by Primordial.
Click HERE for an interview with vocalist Alan Averill.
Would you say the new album is a continuation of what you’ve always been about?
Alan: When we made album one I never thought we’d make eight but here we are. We don’t think too hard about what it is we’re doing. You take each thing as it comes. With this new one I knew we needed a little bit of reinvention, y’know? We needed to change the studio, change things up. Routine is often the death of creativity. That’s exactly what we did. I think we came out with something a bit different. Make no bones about it, heavy metal’s a young man’s game. When you’re in the final moments of your career it’s more difficult. We’re not a nostalgia band. I’m quite glad that we aren’t going out and playing and people only want to hear the first album.
Sure. I like that about Iron Maiden, that they play new records too. Some fans might gripe that it isn’t just the hits but I’m glad they might play a newer song like “Dance Of Death,” for example.
Exactly. We all know that the new Iron Maiden isn’t as good as The Number Of The Beast. I like the new Iron Maiden, but … A lot of heavy metal is nostalgia in the live festival circuit over here. We’re a band where our best albums are arguably our last few.
Do you think it’s sad when bands get paid well only to revisit past albums in their entirety live? Emperor did In The Nightside Eclipse for the 20th Anniversary at Wacken, which I thought was cool.
Yet if you watch the feed from Wacken, you realize no one knew what they were playing. In The Nightside Eclipse is not an important album for your average kid who goes to Wacken Open Air. It just isn’t. And they were paid 100,000 Euro for playing that to a field full of people. I imagine 3 or 4,000 knew what it was. It’s not the audience. We are living in an era that rewards not being creative. Nostalgia driven festival circuits that reward people resting on laurels. I don’t blame bands. “We have this album from 20 years ago that sold thousands and thousands of copies.” It’s just the way it’s gone, y’know? It’s one of the few places where bands can genuinely make money. It’s an unwritten rule that people just don’t talk about what bands get paid for festivals. If you knew some of the fees…well, I just told you one.
I have mixed feelings about it. You want bands to be successful.
The top 5% of bands are now charging so much money they ruining it for the bands in the middle. Why are they gonna pay a band a 5-10,000 Euro fee when they’ve just paid so much money for King Diamond, or something. No one wants to hear songs after 1989. But heavy metal is in a weird place. In a way it’s more popular than even but it’s driven by nostalgia.
You have this culture that’s so fast and information driven now, but you see pictures of kid’s on their iPhones all staring at the screen at a museum while ignoring a Rembrandt. “Seed Of Tyrants” is a powerful title. Ideas take hold like seeds growing. I don’t know if that’s what you meant. Hitler and Lenin both allegedly said if you give them a child they’d be a perfect Nazi or Bolshevist by a young age.
“Seed Of Tyrants” was inspired by the Arab Spring, actually. It’s a sort fof ridiculous, naive perception in certain sections of the Western Media that people like Gaddafi or Assad were just gonna go ,”You know what? You’re right. I’ve been a bad guy.” And just hand over the reigns of democracy. People think the world will be a fairer place if you let go of one tyrant and replace him with twelve. Twelve times the bloodlust. It’s rather aggresive. There is no future other than violence.
Primordial talks about but doesn’t glorify war. Also your voice is rich and full. It makes you connect to the emotions in the subject matter.
Primordial’s not fantastical. Not escapism. Not idealistic romanticism. It’s rooted here and now with historical reference points to help find purchase in the modern day. So, it’s a common misnomer that we’re a Celtic Mythology band. We have nothing to do with that whatsoever.
When you are a touring entity, do you feel like ambassadors or does it sort of become more of a world wide thing for you?
My view of Nationalism has changed a bit over the years.
Your older song “Heathen Tribes” had some of the most moving lyrics of any metal song I’ve ever heard. When I heard it on To The Nameless Dead when that came out…I’ve always wanted to ask you about it. Connection to culture, nature, life itself. At the end you talk about places all around the world.
It was written as a sort of repartee to most of the ridiculous songs that have become sort of pagan metal anthems. Your sort of Manowar “Battle Hymns” or something. I wanted to create this beautiful pagan hymn in a traditional heavy metal sense, to have this geographical name check of places we’d been. My views on Nationalism changed. I used to be against the state, against the church and for the people. Now I’m against the church, state and people. My views on Irish Nationalism. Take “Ghosts Of The Charnel House”. It’s about systematic institutional child abuse. I’m not talking 1920. I’m talking 80-85 or whatever. The communities hid these people. They hid the truth. They refused to acknowledge the church would do such a thing when it was obvious. I’m against the croneyism and corrupt politics of Ireland. The sort of intellectually stunted Catholic mindset.
If you don’t speak out you’re condoning, in a way.
Do you think you might do another album with Twilight Of The Gods? I am a fan of Rune’s playing.
Maybe. I don’t see any reason. The next thing I do may not be heavy metal. I have a new goal every 3-5 months. We’ll see.
Do you look at this album as a culmination of your career with Primordial?
I don’t know. We never plan anything that far ahead. When there’s nothing to do we don’t socialize with each other. I don’t think the end is in site just yet.
Some bands aren’t worried about anything but the next tour cycle and so will shit out a new record with no heart, in short order.
We don’t have to make an album to go on tour or play festivals, so we do something when it’s the time to do something. We move a bit slower than other bands. There’s no magic formula.
Do you feel in terms of free press these days, social media can be used in a positive sense…is it more difficult or easier these days to get messages out there? There seems to be a tug of war all the time (perhaps there always was) between mass media and “the street”, for lack of a better term. At least in America.
The problem really is if people even skim read they just read the title. There’s an inept humanitarianism, which is to just share social media to feel part of a cause. In actuality it makes them further apart from it. I’ll give you an example. The Boston Marathon Bombing. A friend of mine had a .Gif going around of 2 people died in Boston but this many died in Karachi the same day and why is one life more important? I said to my friend ,”Why are you sharing that?” The devil is in the details. The reason we don’t hear about Karachi as much is proximity, culture, language. These were Irish people in Boston. The same ethnicity and that’s why we heard about it more in Ireland. I’m sure in The Karachi Gazette you don’t hear about two kids dying in a bombing in Manchester often or something. Nothing against Karachi but don’t just mindlessly share this thing. To many people think it connects them to a sense of cause or cool.
It can start the conversation but yeah. At the end of the day it’s all death. Let’s talk patience. Some of your songs are masterful build ups of tension and tempo. “Come The Flood” or “Babel’s Tower”. “Spirit The Earth Aflame” is another example. I was talking to a writer/editor friend this morning about an article I am writing re-visiting an older William Gibson book and she said ,”Make sure you have a good title to get more clicks.” It’s all about fast internet marketabilitythese days. What about the work just being good? Where is our focus and patience?
You see this on a lot of blog sites. Headlines just designed to try and get traffic. You can strike professional musician from the charter in a few years.
Due to the nature of your music, it seems like it would have been a hard career at times. The band have a lot of character and integrity.
Primordial is not going to have an electronic phase. The songs are the songs at that time and stand or fall on those merits.