In Their Own Words: Primordial

Here we resurrect Metal Hammer’s once-regular In Their Own Words feature from the ‘80s – the song-by-song lyrical analysis of a new album by the people who wrote them – in honour of Irish black/folk metal institution Primordial’s latest masterpiece Where Greater Men Have Fallen. Singer and lyricist AA Nemtheanga takes us through each song’s theme and concept.

Where Greater Men Have Fallen

“This is the no-brainer opener, the full-on Iron Maiden rallying cry, partly inspired by a book I read about the Chicago World Fair in 1894, when people were looking forward to the 20th century as a period of unrivalled prosperity, and instead we ushered in World War One: bloodshed and killing on an even greater scale than we thought imaginable. Now we’re looking at war on the fringes of Europe and Ukraine, ISIS in the Middle East, it seems to me we’re winding up to some other chaotic age.”

Babel’s Tower

“For me this is maybe my favourite song, but it’s strange, I was talking to a German guy and he said ‘I don’t really get this song!’. But I think it is a real grower, and it looks like it’s the one we’ll make our first video for (see below). It’s about the misinterpretation of language, miscommunication between people, being stuck behind a lifestyle and lying to yourself. It’s a more visual song lyrically, masking something more personal.”

Come The Flood

“A classic Primordial-sounding song with a First World War atmosphere mixed in with a bit of Biblical imagery, where soldiers are praying for a massive flood as the only thing that can wash away all the blood that’s been spilt. There’s a line about “the Jericho trumpet sounds through the valleys and hills” which on one level is a religious reference, but also the siren on the German bombers. I wanted a big chorus – which is partly my Def Leppard/Dokken influence! – but with some depth to it.”

The Seed Of Tyrants

“This had its origin in how the West was viewing the Arab Spring in terms of democracy. Somehow what was holding these countries together was tyranny, and in the power vacuum created by our views of what democracy should stand for, what’s left is absolute chaos. It’s also taking a great stab at inactive humanitarianism encouraged through social networking, and how we try to compartmentalise a very complex situation into a thirty second gif to share on Facebook.”

Ghosts Of The Charnel House

“This year they uncovered a huge mass grave filled with bodies of children outside a religious institution in Ireland. The families gave their upbringing to the Sisters Of Charity, and they basically starved or worked these kids to death. It’s about our lack of courage to stand up to these institutions. At one time I was against the church and state but for the people, then I found myself against all three. We allowed the church to run the institutions of the state, and it’s about what they did with that. And the conclusion is: why aren’t there more priests hanging in local squares?”

The Alchemist’s Head

“Lyrically it’s just about William Blake, it’s a traditional occult tome looking at his views on alchemy. I took my Blake books, pieced the imagery together and wrote the lyrics in literally ten minutes. Anybody who was a teenager in Dublin in the 1980s will remember an occult bookstore called The Alchemist’s Head, when I was 15 I bought Aleister Crowley books there, so this is a little nod to that.”

Born To Night

“This is actually about Selim from The Devil’s Blood. I had a few thoughts about our friendship. After Selim died, so many people who never knew him were posting such incredible rubbish online. I wrote this thing for him, and the last bit was about me and him in a nightclub dancing like fools to Abba or something. That’s how I want to remember him. Nobody writes about what a great sense of humour he had, what a trickster he was, everyone just wanted to write this occult hocus-pocus. But it’s basically about people’s willingness to project their own naive terms of martyrdom onto someone else. I wanted it to take on its own life.”

Wield Lightning To Split The Sun

“This is the Bathory epic! Ciaran had these two riffs at our last rehearsal before the album. As soon as he started to play them we all joined in, I jumped up and sang the first melody that came into my head, which is what you hear on the album, and the whole thing was written in 40 minutes. I wrote the lyrics on the bus, they were done on the way to the studio. I wanted a very simple pagan, heathen element to it, and it’s a great album closer I think. Good to play live as well, it could end up becoming a German pagan metal anthem or something.”

Primordial’s _Where Greater Men Have Fallen _is out now via Metal Blade and was voted #15 in Metal Hammer’s albums of the year 2014. Find out why, and which other records made the cut, in the new issue.

Order your copy online or download it from iTunes or read it on TeamRock+.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.