I saw Primordial last summer in Finland, and thought they were great. They're one of the longest running pagan metal bands, and while they do have some Celtic influence in their music, they have a slower and darker sound overall than some of the more upbeat, folk-heavy pagan bands. It's an intense experience, but rewarding if you like heavy music.
They did a short US tour before heading to ProgPower USA this weekend (a bit odd destination for them, but if it brought them to the US, who am I to complain?), accompanied by While Heaven Wept and Cormorant, two US bands that are rather outside the genre box.
Cormorant, a band from California, has a dark, churning black metal sound in their heavier moments, combined or interspersed with melodies that sound synth or even pop-like. One of their songs, "Blood on the Cornfields," literally sounded like a pop song speeded up and blasted full of metal riffs. The vocals were mostly harsh, with an intonation and rasp that I associate with pirate voices. (Perhaps this is purposeful, as the band apparently takes their name from the Latin corvus marinus, sea raven.) In spite of sudden changes in tempo and mood, there were only a few instances where I found the shifts jarring, such as the several sudden tempo changes in quick succession in the second song.
While Heaven Wept, originally from Virginia, has a background in doom, but their current sound is far too uplifting for me to comfortably put them in that box. Their vocalist, who joined the band in 2008, sings to the heavens in an unabashed clear and high power metal style, and the chord progressions on their newer songs have a very hymnal sound. They did play an older song, "Soul Sadness," which sounded darker and more textured. Overall, they had a much more polished and unified sound than Cormorant, with melodies that flowed seamlessly into and over the heavy segments. They ended with their best song, "Vessel"; during the chorus I noticed some "super-fans" rocking out near the front, and then realized that it was the members of Cormorant, swaying and singing along.
Primordial's performance was quite a change in tone - a pagan metal band from Ireland, they have a strong black metal vibe in their slowish, dark sound and their choice of themes - the persecution of their people, the fall of civilizations, the evil nature of man. Not to mention the singer's corpse paint and Irish miner outfit that looked like it was stained with grave dirt, and the way he gazed at the crowd with demonic intensity and pointed and gestured as though commanding a swarm of ghouls. They gave a solid performance, very heavy, with some Celtic influences in the guitars and drums. The instruments often struck a faster pace while the vocalist used a slower tempo, an angry lament if you will. I thought they sounded as good, if not better than when I saw them last summer in Finland.
Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com posted some videos from the show:
Cormorant - "Two Brothers" (This was one of their most consistently heavy songs)
While Heaven Wept - "Saturn and Sacrifice"
Primordial - "Bloodied Yet Unbowed"
So, if you're headed to ProgPower and wondering what the heck this Primordial band is all about, now you know. They probably won't sound a bit like anyone else there, but isn't that the whole point?
Next concert: Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow, Tyr and Metsätoll, 9/21. FOLK PIT!!!!