By Rob Hughes
Whenever possible, Hellbound tries to get you the scoop on everything new and noteworthy in metal, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, originally released in April, was one of them. However, this album’s moment has not passed. It looms large, presiding like a revered elder over everything else released in 2011.
At this point, seven albums into their career, Primordial clearly have deep reserves of inspiration. Some bands coast for years on first-album energy. Others, like Primordial, take a few releases to find their ideal form. Not to say early Primordial isn’t worth your while—you need A Journey’s End and Spirit the Earth Aflame, for example—but their three Metal Blade releases, starting with The Gathering Wilderness, have attained extraordinary levels of quality. Their fury is now highly polished, articulate and purposeful, and Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand finds them pushing hard on all these qualities.
In terms of pushing, the opening three songs generate the kind of momentum that most bands wouldn’t be able to sustain over an album. Rest assured that the ups and downs of the remaining five tracks carry Redemption… to a satisfying conclusion. “No Grave Deep Enough” is a storming opener, blasting off with double kicks and A.A. Nemtheanga—one of the finest vocalists in extreme metal—sounding tormented and unhinged, hurling taunts at Death himself: “Death, where are your teeth… Where are your claws?” “Lain With the Wolf” stands out for its unique rhythm, a propulsive, ultra-fast triplet feel that’s a cunning innovation on the classic Primordial groove. It sounds like it was a difficult song to record. The drums are right on the edge, with Simon O’Laoghaire driving it onwards like the Grim Reaper’s scythe is tapping him on the shoulder. By the time the song charges into the final, frenetic ninety seconds, the exhilaration of a band in the studio absolutely nailing it is clearly audible. “Bloodied Yet Unbowed” lays off the speed and piles on the emotion, proving that Primordial can go for the throat and the heart. I swear, it’s the kind of song you’d want played at your funeral; a towering, defiant work that resonates with political and personal overtones.
From there, the album goes from strength to strength, especially in the scathing rocker “God’s Old Snake,” the slow-burning devastation wrought in “The Mouth of Judas,” and “The Puritan’s Hand,” which features the album’s most exciting riff. I’ve played Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand to death, dreading the moment when it fails to move me—but that hasn’t happened. Although this review has been a “better late than never” gesture, let it also serve as a “Best of 2011” preview. You’ll definitely be reading about the album again and again come year’s end.