Album Review: PRIMITIVE MAN - Immersion
Artist: Primitive Man
Genre: Blackened Death Sludge
Review by Mothlord
I do not think there are any other bands on the planet that combine crushing, suffocating sonics and palpable atmospheres of existential agony and dread like Primitive Man. I have looked and I have searched high and low. Few creative minds compare to that of Ethan Lee Mccarthy in their ability to evoke feelings apathetic disgust, abject depression and intoxicating and sickeningly feverish misery in musical form. I have been a long time fan of this band, ever since the day that debut album Scorn was unleashed unto the world, brought to my attention by just recently discovering then dissolved prior band of Ethans, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire (check that fucking band out). A band that combined manic and chaotic deathgrind, with blackened trawling sludge tonalities (which would see it's spiritual succession in Ethans other must hear band, Vermin Womb (FUCKING check that band out too).
For a long time I had yearned to hear the horrible blackness and misery I had found in niche of cavernous blackened death metal bands conveyed through a more crushing and rhythmic vessel. And in Primitive Man I found depraved Solace. Now onto their 3rd full length album, with an EP and many split releases thrown in between the band has distilled and refined this depraved solace to a sickeningly comforting potency with "Immersion" Opening in familiar fashion, ushered in through a choir of resonating feedback frequencies. "The Lifer" rumbles and twists in cyclopean manners. Blackness strides with utter confidence across the listeners chest as you are thrown back by the sonic weight. The low churn of ugly and horrendous guitar chords has always likened itself to that of Australian band Portal or any of their side projects.
But the manner in which Primitive Man utilize this miasmic technique always struck me as so much more emotive and aggressive. It is palpably hateful, inducing eye rolling with deep gut churning effects. Emphasized by slow, precise and commanding percussion of Joe Lindon and the horrible, inhumanely deep and monstrous bellows and scathingly wretched barks of Ethans vocals. It is almost like a nightmarish lullaby, lulling you into their dream world of tar, wailing voices and gnashing teeth. "Entity" is a swarm of clashing and dizzying notes swimming in tides of delay and reverb. A slow and thunderous tom sounds with what feels like an eternity of anxiety in between. It is here that I mention that over the years Primitive Man have evolved from a blackened sludge band, verging now into near drone territories. Where earlier works had more mid paced and head bang inducing riffs, and grinding D-beat sections that more often broke up songs. Most recent releases have sunk lower, and lower into the murky and unsettling waters of immersive and claustrophobic walls of twisted noise that endure like a fucking rancid stench. Breaking pace, in a barrage of crushing blast beats, "Menacing" is true to its name. As if to be a deceptive reprieve from the endless weight of oppressive tones you are thrown into a maelstrom only to then stand at the eye of the storm shuddering and cold, eyes met with your tormentor. Then once again, drawn back into the vortex of blasting horror and then cast back against the wall as the raging whips of forward moving drums and guitars pummel and scathe you. And through a barrage of further crushing riffs and then the rumble of Jonathan Campos blasphemously heavy bass guitar ushered in is only further fury and vocals begin to sound more desperate and tortured leading from dissonant guitar riffs into a power chord based riff and then the gradual dissolving of structure and consistency to the songs end and transition into "∞" (infinity), a blinding Merzbow-esque noise piece of crushed and compressed flailing distorted frequencies. A music video was also recently released for this song. In true form it is a hallucinatory and nightmarishly unsettling look at an aspect of social life through the eyes of despondent individuals. And clearly, a response to coping with the current enforced pandemic instigated isolation/lockdown and crumbling social climate of the working class:
"'Menacing' is about asking the unhinged whirlwind of chaos that controls life to guide you through the various trials and tribulations one might encounter," McCarthy tells us. "And in what ways that can mould/shape a person's character. I also speak on the lonely road that one can follow when they refuse to compromise on what they want in this life. Whatever that may be. And that there is a certain level of self-doubt and insanity that blankets all of this. Life is messy."
It is at this stage that I believe Primitive Man have become more of an experience and horror soundscape than a band striving to write carefully intended songs. And further cementing the entity as a very honest, though oft nihilistic and misanthropic expression of response to the world. The band writes music as if it was black liquid seeping from gaping wounds. The music flows in nauseating repetitions, with nothing necessarily ground-breaking being brought to the palette this time around. The music feels simply an instinctive expressive response to the horrors of a fractured and decaying society. And though I do not have lyrics immediately on hand, I am certain once again Ethan is spitting his most unbridled venom laced vengeance and disgust for the horrors of mankind and our existence through these waves crashing against the listener. "Foul" feels especially foul. Especially melodically bitter, it rolls and surges and in my minds eye I can picture some deranged half naked and withered man with a spit bag over his head miming like a conductor in a ruined junk slum. Perhaps it is why I like Primitive Man so much. The music leaves room to feel, to image, to switch off to. I find bizarre solace in this music, bizarre comfort. And perhaps it lends itself to the title of this album, but I certainly feel the most peacefully immersed in the experience. This song peaks towards its end with a distant "lead" guitar of sorts, peeling its way through, above and around the wall of enduring riff. It are these touches that bring admittedly needed variation to Primitive Mans songs. Something to grab onto for a brief time as the focal point or climax of a song. Immersion has felt like the shortest Primitive Man album to date. As we are already at the closing track "Consumption" and perhaps this is just the perfect amount of time to thrash itself in rejection and anguish before disappearing into the murk once again. It stomps through with decisive striding drum beats that give momentum to churning horror guitars. It does feel a fitting final statement for the album as it rages through fist pounding and neck breaking passages. This song seems to have the most obvious build ups, and distinct changes. It ends without true warning, and as an artistic statement I appreciate the potency. My heart holds a special place for this band, and any project Ethan works on I cannot hide the fact. I was even able to support them on their Australian tour with my band, and seeing them life was nothing short of an emotional and spiritual experience and I heavily endorse seeing the band live if possible. As this music makes its most sense when punishing you through multiple guitar cabs at deafening levels. I feel confident to say that this record does Primitive Man exceptionally well and does not let down on any expectations beyond feeling shorter than I'd like and lacking in more distinct changes.
Perhaps my take on the honest drawn out and bled out nature of the "consuming" aspect of these songs is intentional. Broken up passages, more distinct dynamics and moments to really hang on to could have served this record well. When trying to introduce a friend to the band there are only so many songs I can offer as a suggestion that are immediate, distinct and "song like". But clearly stated, Primitive Man is not for everyone. This is a band for masochists and those with the fires of disgust at oneself and the world burning in their shriveling hearts. I am not the artist and who am I to say what a record should be? Perhaps this album is the perfect and well timed sonic response to our unendingly torturous and further devolving global social and political situation. It feels heavy with resentment and despondency. May it serve as momentary escape and reprieve to any people truly struggling to cope with our declining global and social situations. Immersion is out on Relapse Records August 14th. Pre-order it now HERE.