REVIEW: Primitive Man administers doom metal punishment with ‘Immersion’

Primitive Man, Immersion

The existence of Primitive Man almost seems unfair. The conversation suddenly becomes, “heavy metal music, and Primitive Man.” This Colorado trio truly takes the cake as far unrelenting and suffocating darkness. The band set the bar extremely high with its debut, Scorn, and doubled down on Caustic. Even if played at low volume, both of these albums intoxicate with their hellish proceedings. Of special note is Primitive Man’s avoidance of stagnation within a decidedly monochromatic approach. The members have stuck with pitch-black punishment and it serves them well. With that being said, Immersion succeeds not as a reinvention, but a third dumbfounding crash course in total aural destruction.

Primitive Man
Relapse Records, Aug. 14

In case it wasn’t clear already, Primitive Man approaches doom metal like a harsh noise wall. The song “∞” is literally two minutes and 22 seconds of mind-melting distortion on par with Vomir or The Rita. Opener “The Lifer” transposes this approach to doom metal instrumentation as guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy and bassist Jonathan Campos forsake traditional riffs for waves of earth-shattering volume worship.

Joe Linden’s tektonic drumming drives the dirge along its decadent path, but again, the response is less head-banging and more slack-jawed befuddlement at malevolent monolith. McCarthy’s vocals remain unparalleled in despondent rage, as his monstrous roars and witchy retches recall that part of Marvel Comics’ “Old Man Logan” where the Venom symbiote bonded with a T-Rex.

While two-fifths of “Entity” revel in droning dissonance and ominous drum hits, Primitive Man has mastered the art of catharsis through excruciating sonics. The band builds tension patiently, waiting for the perfect moment develop the noise-scape. Minor chord changes and piercing screams hit like wrecking balls, as the lumbering tempo and viscus timbre makes every shift the musical equivalent of resetting a dislocated shoulder. Even when “Menacing” shakes things up with grinding blast beats and hammering half-time grooves, the effect remains impenetrable and terrifying.

It’s almost unfathomable how these guys can maintain musical unity in such a challenging environment, but the brown noise guitars and battering percussion do maintain a potent atmosphere. Sitting with a track inevitably reveals motifs and well-placed riff switches within the filthy cavalcade. Sure, you have to be a glutton for feedback stabs, pants-soiling chugs and demonic screams, but there are rewards to be found.

The only problem is that these rewards are all but identical to those hidden in Caustic or Scorn. The lurching, abyss hate of “Foul” will appeal more to the masochistic fans who’d like nothing more than to pop their ear drums in the front row of a Primitive Man concert. Still, the track has more spooky guitar refrains as counterbalance to low-end devastation, enveloping in its deathly embrace.

In name alone, closer “Consumption” sums up Primitive Man’s approach. The trio goes beyond curating crushing riffs. The pure, unadulterated weight of this album sounds like it could bring the whole world to its knees. And yet, the guttural vocals are arresting in their emotional impact, as are the stirring tremolo-picked guitar refrains that gradually emerge. Appreciating this music requires a hunger for the most unfriendly sounds imaginable, along with a keen awareness of the nuanced and slow-burning development that defines quality doom metal.

Immersion won’t come as a surprise to people already on the Primitive Man train, but there’s a certain satisfaction in the band sticking to its guns. The musical weaponry at play here hasn’t been harnessed before or since these guys dropped their debut. At the very least, this album once again proves that this band represents the end of doom metal’s arms race of flattening riffs and unholy sentiments.

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