Describing a band as the best Folk (in the case Celtic) black metal band in Ireland is much like describing Genesis as the best English progressive band named after a book of the Bible… whose lead singers name begins with P. It is certainly true, but it isn't saying much. But that doesn't make Genesis any less brilliant, similarly, Primordial are a class act, even if there aren't many other black folk metal bands in their homeland.
1998's A Journey's End saw Primordial at a turning point, taking the black metal template laid down in their debut and enhancing the Celtic influences whilst striving to avoid the clichés synonymous with much folk metal (particularly of the pagan variety). The album was an artistic success, retaining the rasping rawness of their sound whilst adding an extra depth of texture with the increase of influences from Irish music. The sound is unique; an evocative atmosphere is created without much recourse to the generic imagery of swords and campfires so prevalent in similar offerings from their Norse cousins. Instead, the listener is met with very real images of rural hardship and oppression. It is beautiful and powerful.
This remastered reissue comes complete with new packaging, a bonus track, and a second disc featuring the band live in concert in Lisbon 1999. The new packaging is pleasantly understated, if unremarkable, and the sound is cleaner than before. The live disc offers an insight into the band's live sound at the time. It gives a good sense of the aggression and emotion that is the lifeblood of the band's performances. The recording is very raw however, with regular crackles and volume swells. It isn't enough to hide the strength of the performance, but is distracting at times and does limit replay value.
The bonus track however, is another matter entirely. Adding bonus tracks is an inherently dangerous business at the best of times, spoiling as they do the flow and dynamic of an album. But "And The Sun Set On Life Forever", added to the end of A Journey's End adds insult to injury by being of near-unlistenable quality in places, it in no way does justice to the song itself, and is merely an ugly wart on the end of an otherwise luminous album.
Overall this is a very strong package for the uninitiated, featuring as it does, the powerful original album and an insight into Primordial's live immediacy. The remastering and extra material may also give reason for those that own the original to revisit. The live disc is probably better viewed as a bonus as opposed to a live album proper, due to its low sound quality. Nevertheless, this is a very good value package… if you ignore the bonus track that is.
1. Graven Idol
2. Dark Song
3. Autumn's Ablaze
4. Journey's End
5. Solitary Mourner
6. Bitter Harvest
7. An Aistear Deirneach
8. Let The Sun Set On Life Forever (bonus)
CD 2 (Live At The Ritz, Lisbon, Portugal, 09/12/99)
1. Infernal Summer
2. The Calling
3. Journeys End
4. Children Of The Harvest
5. The Burning Season
6. The Purging Fire (Gods To The Godless)
7. Autumns Ablaze
8. Let The Sun Set On Life Forever
9. Graven Idol
10. To Enter Pagan