A.A. Nemtheanga: Vocals
Ciarán MacUilliam: Guitar
Pól MacAmlaigh: Bass
Simon O'Laoghaire: Drums
Primordial really do have nothing to prove. Having lasted 32 years and now returning with their tenth devastating full-length, the Irish band have made it clear they are a primal force who consistently lay it all on the line. The follow up to 2018's Exile Amongst The Ruins, How It Ends sees them delivering more of their seminal blend of Celtic and black metal, with an extra added urgency, and staring down the apocalypse. "The title is a question - is this how it ends? How it all goes down: culture, language, history, society - humanity - who knows?" says vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga. "Regardless of who you are or were you get one chance at all of this, and it's asking is this the end of your town, state, nation? Myths, traditions, relationships, and I suppose it asks the question, who reacts, who rebels - how does it end now for them?"
Working alongside founding members Pól MacAmlaigh (bass) and Ciáran MacUilliam (guitar) and longtime drummer Simon O'Laoghaire, the band started writing in earnest in the fall of 2022, having lit a fire under themselves to work hastily and productively. Primordial never plan out a record beforehand, letting them come together naturally, though Nemtheanga knew he wanted something with a bigger, more open sound, and something more aggressive, which is exactly what they achieved. "How It Ends is a very angry, defiant, visceral, and rebellious album, and as we worked it all began to take more shape and form itself. It may be the note we go out on but it will be a note of resistance, in musical terms. I think it's also more metal! And more epic!" It only takes one listen for these claims to be proven true, whether it's the surging, gruff, dark "Ploughs To Rust, Swords To Dust" or the moody, desperate "Pilgrimage To The World's End" or the sprawling "All Against All", which is drenched in a sinister air and driven by pounding rhythms, wielding a towering climax. "It certainly sounds like Primordial, there is no doubt about that, we have our own style and this is a new chapter of the same book. If we have done anything new it's really to work with more conviction than ever, and trust more than ever our instincts."
Drawing lyrical influence both from modern and historical ideas, Nemtheanga always gives the listener something to think about, and How It Ends is no different. "If for example To The Nameless Dead (2007) was about the movement of borders, building of nations and those sent to war who gave their lives forming them, then this is the album more about resisting those empires, the freedom fighters, the outlaws, the people who made suicidal stands for freedom of speech, or independence - or for the most important word in the English language: liberty. It's not hard to see why the album is inspired by this considering where we are right now in the world." The title track continues the themes that have always been a part of Primordial, looking at "the life cycle of people, of nations, of languages, songs, myths and tradition. This song, as much of the album, asks the question, do you have the stomach for the fight? The guts to stand against the crowd? To rebel, to dissent, to stand up to authoritarianism?" Then there is "Pilgrimage To The World's End", which was inspired partly by the stories of poor Irish convicts, sent to the world's end, figures like Ned Kelly who refused to accept the laws oppressing them and "who then rebelled and came to embody, through myth, resistance. This is an album of resistance. Maybe it's romantic, as it looks at the doomed rebel as integral to the fabric of society and asks where are our new rebels? The people resisting oppression? As it seems, sadly, to me more and more people seem to wish for more authority, more censorship, more oppression, for the state to intervene more and more in their lives." The title of "We Shall Not Serve" tells the listener what the song is about, "it asks the question, who today is willing to sacrifice themselves for the moral good? I took influence from the Irish poet Joseph Mary Plunkett, a writer but also a revolutionary who at not yet 30 years old gave his life, executed for his role in the uprising, an artist, but also with the guts to defy an empire. So I'm asking the question, where are the artists now who stand up for any kind of cause, that isn't the one handed to them by the state or technocracy? Where are the rebels? The genuine outsiders, the outlaws in thought?"
The album was tracked at Hellfire Studios on the outskirts of Dublin, produced by the band and engineered by previous collaborator Chris Fielding, and while the making of Exile Amongst The Ruins was like pulling teeth, How It Ends was a positive experience for the band, "calm, but with a really strong work ethic and intensity". There was also a lot of room for improvisation once in the studio, the demos the "bones" of the songs, and they were open to changing structures and tempos, doing what it took to make the songs as good as possible. The result is certainly a fine way to celebrate 30-plus years of Primordial, and this milestone resonates with Nemtheanga. "It makes me proud to think we've lasted so long. It feels like so long ago but yet also I have memories that seem like last week - youth is wasted on the young, huh? Blink and you miss it, but in the grand scheme to be able to make music, have someone give a fuck about it, travel, and perform it, was what you would have wanted when you were 16 and here we are." Acknowledging that "the percentage of our 'career' is behind us, and we are in the last few chapters," the band don't tend to go out just yet, still hoping to visit new countries, "play strong shows, not compromise, and continue to do what we do to the best of our ability." The fact of the matter is that in a world cluttered with soundalike bands in just about every metal sub-genre, Primordial offer something real that cannot be denied. "It sounds stupid to say, but it's not fantasy, not escapism. It's not compromised and co-opted, it's genuine, in a world where that seems to count for less and less."