REVIEW: The Primrose Path – A History in 9 Parts [2014]


Artist: The Primrose Path

Album: A History in 9 Parts


What lies before you is a journey—a winding, twisting experience that will test the very extent of your patience and the potency of your puzzle-solving ability. More than it will test your patience and your cognitive ability; however, it will test your resolve—from the physical limitations of your body to the fullest amount of your willpower. This journey will become you—and it is none other than A History in 9 Parts, the debut full-length album by Albany-based aggressive-and-progressive metalcore act, The Primrose Path. Written on a canvas of crushing, dynamic and immersive instrumentation and scrawled with diverse, stellar screams, A History in 9 Parts tells a story of a physical and metaphorical journey to self-improvement and self-realization; one that soon finds itself taking over the listeners head and working its way into their bloodstream, forcing their heart to contract and expand, integrating into their very being.

Your journey begins staring down The Primrose Path’s penchant for punishing, perfect progressive instrumentation. Right from the get-go, the listener is greeted with labyrinthine riffs, pummeling percussion and serene, stellar songwriting—no part of this journey is to be straightforward. From the very beginning, that much at least is clear.  “Eve” lets loose with swerving, surreal fretwork that swamps the listener in mires of technicality so thick they feel as if they can barely move their legs; while “The Quieter” toggles between hyperambience and boundless aggression so suddenly—but smoothly—that it is simply mind-boggling. Much of the band’s mastery of a great variety of styles and atmospheres comes from the diverse and engaging guitar work, courtesy of Justin Tatar and Joey Grant. While “Dread Raggin’” is a relatively straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense gem of anger, aggression and passion, tracks like “The Quieter” see moments of ethereal, jazz-influence shred and technicality that would make Between the Buried and Me proud. The same can be said for “Existence,” which contrasts goring, grotesque grooves and overlaid ambient fretwork that lets the listener float through the track safely. True enough, the guitars are paintbrushes that smear stellar soundscapes in a variety of hues and shades, they do so with the assistance of Aaron Uline’s awe-inspiring skill behind the drum kit. “Existence” and “To Space” are especially indicative of this, making a fine point of Uline’s ability to both provide smooth, simple drum lines that let the guitars shine—to the exact opposite: using flourish after flourish after furiously-played fill to steal the spotlight.

As the listener’s journey through A History in 9 Parts advances, they find themselves more and more lost—lost in a variety of ways; is it the lack of clarity as to which direction they should follow? Or is it the lack of clarity behind their identity—the slow but sure rearrangement of their value system, changing things they once held close and true. Fortunately for the listener, while traversing The Primrose Path’s surreal, swerving, twisting and turning technically prominent masterpiece is taxing to the extreme, it is not a feat that must be done without assistance. For every moment of goring brutality, low booming heaviness and untraceable shredding and soaring technicality, there are beautifully written lyrics and a stunning array of vocals to guide them into the listener’s ears. Together with Tommy Miller’s smooth, buttery bass riffing, Gabe McMahon provides a wonderfully gruff vocal approach that ranges from low and bitter to harsh and shouted—while the bass guitar complements it perfectly, providing a link between it and the diversity of the guitar and the furious fills and punishing percussion that serve as its background. Tracks like “To Space,” along with “Eve” and “Love” see the vocal diversity working absolute wonders—along with the wonders held in the lyrics for each of these tracks. Even the softer, serene “Dwellers” and portions of “The Quieter” provide awe-inspiring cleans and breaks from McMahon’s murderous, gruff shouts for the listener to take reprieve within; for no wanderer should be forced on such a grueling journey without some opportunity for rest and recovery.

With the assistance of the vocals, the path outlined by A History In 9 Parts becomes cohesive, and fluid. While the guitars and percussion provide a topsy-turvy, constantly-changing and dynamic feel to the release, the vocals maintain a constant candor, guided by the plodding, piercing nature of the bass guitar. “Castle” is a comprehensive example: the guitars are shreddy and grooving, roaming from crushing, remorseless heaviness to ethereal atmosphere as they wish—but the vocals are a constant guide for the listener, allowing them to work their way through the track with at least some assistance. This metaphorical approach can be applied to the whole album; the vocals are the guide the listener needs in order to make sense of the mission The Primrose Path bestow upon them with A History in 9 Parts. Furthermore, the greater the listener’s understanding and comprehension of their journey becomes, the more it resonates within them, truly providing a motivation and moving purpose—a reason to improve and live a life they desire, not simply a life that is handed to them—a life they must journey to ascertain.

Don’t let the long run-time or cavalcade of ambitious, extensive influences dissuade you; The Primrose Path are a prodigally progressive metalcore band that are able to provide sinister heaviness and soulful atmosphere seemingly simultaneously. Combining straight-forward hardcore influences with galactic, gracious technicality a la djent and deathcore alike, A History in 9 Parts is a tale of passion and energy that the listener will truly take to heart.




For Fans Of: Northlane, Adhara, Between the Buried and Me, Prime Meridian

By: Connor Welsh