I am well aware that this album has been out for months, so this review will be old news to any Primordial fans. That said, I only bought it a few weeks ago and I've been listening to it more than anything else since then, so I'm going to briefly review it anyway.
First off, I should note that while I've been passingly familiar with Primordial for a while and I've heard several of their songs in the past, this is the first full album by the band that I've ever listened through. I therefore won't be able to place this record within the greater context of the band's catalog. Instead, I'll just have to discuss this album on its own merits. With that in mind, here we go.
There are two major elements I noticed throughout this album that feel worthy of note. The first was Primordial's excellent sense of balance. As anybody who listens to much metal that falls in the general pagan/folk/viking sphere knows, many such bands have a tendency to go a bit over-the-top with their medieval-ness. Personally that's never bothered me, since I'm a dork who eats that shit up, but I do recognize that it's too cheesy for many people. With this record, though, it never felt to me like the fantasy end of things got pushed to an extreme. Instead, they maintain a healthy balance. It stays metal, but the Celtic flavor never really disappears.
The second big factor, and I've heard this one mentioned before, is the lead vocalist. At first I wasn't too crazy about him. In fact, in the past the vocals have been the main reason why I didn't explore this band further. I can't really explain why, but they just did nothing for me. Somewhere during the course of playing through this album, though, a switch inside my head was flicked. It was kind of bizarre, but by the end of the record, I wanted nothing so much as to play it again and listen to the now-fantastic-sounding vocals. In fact, sitting down to write this review prompted me to yet again play my personal favorite track, the marvelous Bloodied Yet Unbowed.
I don't know how this album stands relative to their previous efforts. What I do know is that it has won me over as a convert who now intends to further explore the rest of their catalog. I'd give it an A-.