PRIMORDIAL — Imrama (review)

PRIMORDIAL — Imrama album cover Album · 1995 · Pagan Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Wilytank
Primordial are one of those common knowledge blackened folk metal acts that prove that you don't need cheesy keyboards or flutes and fiddles to make interesting folk metal; just a little acoustic guitar to go along with their epic sounding metal music. However, no one ever brings up their debut 'Imrama' in any discussions of the band. Granted, this is one one of their weaker albums, but there are a good amount of quality elements to keep me coming back to it.

This album actually leans more toward black metal than folk but the influences that hint at their later inversion of that order are definitely here. There's the opener "Fuil Arsa" which has folkish acoustic guitar played alongside the metal music and non-English lyrics. Beyond that song, the rest of this album is mostly black metal; but Primordial does have their trademark Primordial tone going already, i.e. lots of triplet riffs and lyrics dealing with paganism, society, and dark romanticism. Those three themes are enough to cycle back and forth from through the album's ten song cycle, and there's some very memorable licks like the aggressive sounding "Here I Am King" and "The Fires", the more somber "The Darkest Flame" and "Let the Sun Set on Life Forever", and the flat-out epic opener and closer pieces "Fuil Arsa" and "Awaiting the Dawn".

There are a few reasons why 'Imrama' is one of Primordial's weaker albums though. A lot of these pieces are good but not great, and the only two I'd put in a Primordial dream live set list are the opening and closing pieces. The musicianship feels sloppy in places' the example that comes first to my mind is in "Here I Am King" in the first blastbeating section where the riffs and drumming don't seem to match up right. Singer A.A. Nemtheanga combines all his styles like he usually does: harsh, spoken, and clean. However, 'Imrama' features some of his weakest clean vocals ever. The dude barely has any range here, which makes him sound pretty boring when compared to his work in Primordial's other albums. Fortunately, he'd improve in time for the sophomore album 'A Journey's End' three years later.

'Imrama' was their debut album and Primordial are one of those bands whose debut album is only a dry run of the excellent material to come. These pieces are weaker than Primordial's later work, but the majority of them are still good for what they are with the side effect of making their later albums seem even better in comparison. So, go ahead and give 'Imrama' a go if just to see what Primordial was like before 'Spirit the Earth Aflame' or 'To The Nameless Dead'.
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