Self-described as “Denver’s 1st and only Death Sludge band,” Primitive Man deliver glacial doom on Immersion
Before putting out their highly accomplished breakthrough sophomore record, Caustic (2017), Primitive Man were busy cementing themselves as one of the more distinctive takes on contemporary doom and sludge metal, through a prolific eleven splits and solo EP releases, as well as their debut record, Scorn (2013). By embracing an extremely slow funeral doom approach, spearheaded by drone metal pioneers Sunn O))) and Earth in the 1990’s, Primitive Man have also tied in elements of noise and sludge, akin to contemporary artists such as Thou and Full of Hell.
The general aesthetic and atmosphere that surrounds Immersion, is, well, an immersion into the devastating nature of the music. Released through Relapse Records, it is not difficult to see that Primitive Man have certainly kept up with their dark tradition of disgustingly nihilistic and almost The Divine Comedy-esque obsession with death and hell through their album covers, and most certainly the music contained within.
“The Lifer” opens up the track listing and is unmerciful right from the start, piercing unprepared ears with shrieking feedback that is swiftly contrasted by Ethan McCarthy’s extremely guttural vocals and massive guitar tone that implements more sonic timbre in favor of texture than traditional riffs and structure. The punishing and hard-hitting drum work lives up to the band’s name and sounds primitive as can be, again, more in line with tribal death chants than a conventional drum beat.
As almost eight minutes of pure sludge go by, Primitive Man really test the limits of minimalism, opting to open up with give or take two minutes of an extremely dissonant riff, before the vocals and drums follow suit, not really exploring too much ground, but rather a meditation and fixation on the main, fast strummed guitar-riff, segueing into the introductory blast-beasts of “Menacing.” Throughout the course of the song, Primitive Man show off their heaviest capacities, especially some of the particularly disgusting riffs used halfway through the song, when not switching between fast blast-beats, guitar drones or just overall breakdowns. Although, calling any of Primitive Man’s riffs breakdowns is sort of redundant.
The purely noise track “∞” might act as a transition into the closing half of the record, or might as well be its own piece. The sound collage nature is pretty reminiscent to the more harsh moments of Merzbow’s controversial, yet highly acclaimed masterpiece, Pulse Demon (1996). However, before too much time is spent pondering if Primitive Man should go full harsh noise or not, the jumpy, alarmingly anxious guitar riff of “Foul” arrives. Dare it be said that Primitive Man flirt with post-rock near the end of the track, as the main riff is disorientingly repeated again and again before being cut off by another highly dissonant and sludgy section, building up in intensity as overdubbed layers of sound through noise and guitar parts are faded in.
One of the more ‘conventional’ songs, the concluding track, “Consumption,” is driven by a standard drum beat that jumps between blasts and tom buildups, similarly to blackened death and DSBM outfits such as Paysage d’Hiver, or even the infamous Mayhem/Burzum releases. About halfway through, this comparison really shines after a short bout of punishing guitar feedback and a sort of screamed vocal melody that is rhythmic but also at its most high-pitched, at least compared to the sonic difference in the earlier parts of the record.
Perhaps whoever is listening should be forewarned to save their ears from the awful grips of tinnitus, but the static and white noise that follows afterwards from listening to Immersion at near maximum volume is soothing and worthwhile in its own way. Notorious for playing extremely loud, just like the experimental/post-rock outfit Swans or even Dublin shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, it should really go without saying that people will need ear protection in a live setting, but, for the time being, dime Immersion, and fall into it’s dark, pitch-black void of noise and doom.