With immense thanks to Black Conjuration Fest; much to the delight of Australian blackened folk metal fans, the Irish Metal titans Primordial have finally made the feat of venturing down to the land of Oz for the first time in their three decade long career. In January it was announced that the band would be heading down under for 2 exclusive shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Last night I had the absolute privilege of attending the Melbourne show. For those of you in Sydney, I highly recommend you get yourself down to The Bald Faced Stag tonight!
I had arrived just before doors opened, so by the time I had made it inside the venue it was just in time for Melbourne black metallers Mar Mortuum, whom were due to take the stage at 8:10pm. There were around 30 or so punters who also got there to check out the first set, and I’ve got to say that those who didn’t missed out on an impressive performance, and I urge you look them up. The band were dowsed in corpse paint, and dripping with fake blood. Vocalist known as ‘M.’ visibly had saturated red hands. Their sound consisted of demonic growls, undead screams, and the occasional animalistic roar, whirring guitar, bass vibrations that ricocheted through the floor, which were broken up with slowed ambient deep instrumental sections. Drummer ‘Azavtm’ glided fluidly around the kit with speed and precision.
Next up was Australian Avant-garde black metal act Abstract The Light at 8:50pm. Interestingly, vocalist Ben Sheehan positioned himself right of the stage as opposed to the standard central position, which instead bassist Ben Veniamin had taken to. Both Veniamin and Sheehan wore hooded cloaks which added a dark theatrical element to their presence. Sheehan also had painted his entire face black, and guitarist Matt Brown had blackened his eyes in an Alice Cooper-esque fashion. I particularly enjoyed drummer Brody Green’s use of mallets on the cymbals, creating resonant builds during cymbal-heavy sections of their set. Impressively, Green also wore a blindfold for the entire duration of their performance; not missing a single beat. Sheehan transitioned from orc-like growls into soaring cleans with ease. Their sound had a pleasant folk vibe to it. Unfortunately Sheehan experienced some technical difficulties with an effect pedal, though he took it in his stride despite being visibly frustrated. He concluded the set addressing this to the crowd in saying “sorry for the technical difficulties; give us another go, we don’t suck” The hiccup detracted little from their overall performance.
Before long it was 9:35pm, meaning the crowd were met by a fierce performance from Nocturnal Graves. Their sound fuses elements of death, thrash and black metal into a well-rounded, aggressive sound. Vocalist ‘J’ opened the set commanding to the audience that they “wanted to see total fucking violence”. He went on to repeatedly thrust his fists in the air with force and punched his forehead emphatically. The played tracks including “Slave Annihilation”, “Lead Us to the Endless Fire”, “From the Bloodline of Cain” and “Aggressive Exterminator” which were all met by headbanging from the mosh pit that by now had gained in volume.
10:30pm saw Aussies own veterans Vomitor take to the stage with their fusion of black, speed and death metal. Vocalist and guitarist ‘Death Dealer’ delivered textured gritty growls and piercing high notes. Their sound was completed by the crash and pound of drummer known as ‘Hellcunt’, coupled with the low end bass tones from Anton Vomit. They played tracks including “Pits of Nightmare/Pitch Black”, “Midnight Madness” and “Hellburst to Fight”, which effortlessly kept the crowd in a lively state in preparation for the long-anticipated headliners who were soon to follow.
Come 11:30pm and the lights faded to black while the crowd gathered across the venues floor, which appeared to have little space despite not having been an entirely sold out show. An intro track began to fill the stages silence which was none other than Primordial’s own rendition of the Celtic song “Dark Horse on the Wind”, as the band took to the stage and settled in. Wasting no time they thrust open the set with the colossal track “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” raising hell amongst the crowd as Alan Averill Nemtheanga’s vocals powered throughout the venue with might and precision. His stage presence was instantly striking; between his unearthed-zombie-like attire, lively erratic mannerisms and compelling use of physical expression. The might of the song’s sound was completed by the resonating Celtic riffs delivered by Ciarán MacUilliam and Michael O’Floinn, blended with Pól MacAmlaigh’s bass tones, and glued together by Simon O’Laoghaire’s pounding battle-esque beats. Nemtheanga addressed the crowd, announcing that they had waited 20 years to play here. The crowd were rearing to go as an ‘Oi’ chant erupted, in light of the monumental occasion. Continuing on, the next track was “No Grave Deep Enough” which impassioned the audience with dark folk melody dressed in Nemtheanga’s vocal delivery akin to a warrior in battle cry. He effortlessly transitioned between soaring power notes and the throaty rattles present during the elongated lyrical phrase “oh, death”. He summoned the audience with his theatrics such as commanding hand gestures, slow crouched panning across the crowd, and making fierce eye contact with many at different points and exchanging momentary unspoken communication with individuals. At one point he fist-bumped a fan at the front of the stage, and a high-five with another. Such antics were a consistent occurrence throughout the entire set, which the crowd were also repeatedly assured that they would not be “playing for an hour then fucking off”, but in fact playing “a long set for more like 2 hours”. Needless to say the crowd were ecstatic at the news, and the bands clear appreciation for the loyal support spanning over decades. The next track posed a nod back to early works. From their second album ‘Journey’s End’ the track “Autumn’s Ablaze” was introduced as being “about a woman from another century” as Nemtheanga also went on to adopt somewhat of a storyteller role between songs; further building on the theatrical essence of the bands performance style.
The crowd were further informed that the following song “Gods to the Godless” was about touring Europe 10-15 years ago with drummer Steve Hughes of Australian metal band Slaughter Lord, and “Gallows Hymn” being about “sitting around with Keith from Destroyer 666 and thinking: what the fuck are we doing with our lives?” Such historical anecdotes were well received by the audience, and they held an essence of a long awaited catch-up amongst friends. There was such a celebratory air about the atmosphere, and rightly so; given that it’s the first time Primordial has graced Australian soil. Morale was only heightened by the fiery empowering nature of the lyrical themes and rich instrumental tones signified by Primordial’s own beautiful manifestation of blackened folk metal. The crowd was rife with movement, as fists were thrown in the air and heads were banged as they sang along; at times like a choral wave toward the stage. Nemtheanga addressed the crowd once more, saying “listen up, every man is a thief, every man is a liar; and there’s no need for it. I will judge you all in Babel’s Tower” the dramatic effect of these introductions served well to further build anticipation and excitement as fans tried to guess which songs they would hear next. The band’s energetic stage presence showed no signs of waning ( nor the crowd) with a highlight of the set coming to fruition during “As Rome Burns”, with the crowd passionately chanting the lyrics “sing,sing, sing to the slaves…sing to the slaves as Rome burns”. The song was noted as being “hate speech” due to Nemtheanga’s honest confession of having hatred in his heart when he wrote the song. Upon reaching the halfway mark of the mammoth set, he jokingly asked if we were bored yet. Observing the crowds reactions, I doubt Primordial could have bored them if they tried. No really, people couldn’t get enough of them! The band went on to play the tracks “Sons of the Morrigan”, “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” and “The Coffin Ships” (which had earlier been requested by the crowd, and needless to say was a favourite). It was also noted that we “have no idea how long they’ve waited to play that here”. It proved to be a wait worthwhile for the crowd and band alike. Nemtheanga also took a moment to joke with the crowd, asking if anybody had a bit of Irish in them, followed by suggesting that “if any of the girls in the room would like a bit more Irish in them they could form a line and they’d be sorted out”.
As the set drew nearer to a close, the crowd were swept away with the tracks “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun” and “Empires Fall”, before being asked if the band should “fuck off and come back again or just continue playing?” To which the consensus was that they continue playing; and so “Heathen Tribes” was to follow. The band bid fans farewell and departed the stage, though evidently this wasn’t enough for the rowdy crowd as they erupted with chanting for “one more song!” A few moments passed whilst Vomitor vocalist ‘Death Dealer‘ encouraged the crowd from the side of the stage to get even louder. Eventually they returned, joking that they “said we weren’t going to do it, yet here we are…you cunts”. After some deliberation, the set reached its final conclusion with the track “From the Gathering Wilderness” which was heavily met by chanting and fist pumping in solidarity. Nemtheanga gave a heartfelt final thank you to the crowd, proclaiming “we are Primordial from the Republic of Ireland. We hail you all, we will meet again. It has been a victory”. I think I can safely speak for the entire crowd in saying let us hope it’s not another 20 years before reacquainting; especially after having tasted what we’ve been missing!
Check out the full gallery of the performance here!