Originally released in 2002 on Hammerheart Records, Storm Before Calm marked Primordial’s fourth full-length release. Their mix of Celtic tradition and Nordic bleakness was fairly unique, with only Cruachan really even attempting to cover similar ground (with some success too, I highly recommend seeking their records out!).
This reissue (on Metal Blade Records) is of the original version of the album, so we don’t get the UK edition’s extra track, The Burning Season, but that omission aside Storm Before Calm remains the essential, vital experience that it was back in 2002. Seamlessly welding elements of Irish folk music and Celtic lore to a spine of purest black metal, Primordial’s 11-year history as a band up to this point makes its presence felt throughout – songs of this length (4.57 and up, discounting the short instrumental piece What Sleeps Within!) require a degree of skill in their crafting to hold the listener’s interest, something that the band had in spades by then.
Although The Heretic’s Age is a fine opener, all blastbeats and shuddering melodic riffing relaxing into almost a swing feel, it’s when that track gives way to the sweeping dissonant doom of Fallen To Ruin and its spoken-word breakdown that the album truly reveals its intent and scope. From here on out, from Cast To The Pyre and its mournful yet spite-filled lyrical bent, to the scathing, full-bore assault of Suns First Rays and on through the folky paean to the Irish tri-goddess of battle Sons Of The Morrigan, to the closing salvo of ‘Hosting Of The Sidhe, this is a most individual take on pagan metal, steeped in Irish legends and musical tradition.
Epic in the truest meaning of the word, Storm Before Calm was Primordial’s last release strictly in this style, with 2005’s The Gathering Wilderness showcasing a bleaker, blacker feel which would become their calling-card from then onwards. If you don’t already have this, it’s more than worth your while to grab a copy of this reissue.
Written by Rob McAuslan