The other night my wife and I were discussing Trolls World Tour, as distinguished adults do, and the song “Crazy Train” came up. She was shocked to learn that it was considered a metal song, I mean after all it was sung by the Rock Trolls, and the song sounds like Enya when compared to the subject of today’s review Primitive Man. That got me thinking about the scope of the genre, and my own personal journey building from “lighter” metal to the hard stuff. Once you’re in too deep, it’s easy to forget how much of an acquired taste metal is. Just as no one goes from Bud Light to bourbon after their first drink, there’s some build-up to get from Ozzy to Blood Incantation. But in this analogy, Primitive Man is like grain alcohol.
Primitive Man’s new record Immersion is oppressively bleak. This album is pure anger, but not without a cause. Lyrically, the album grapples with the weight of distrust in and disgust with everything – both oneself and the callous world we live in. It’s pure, unbridled rage against the depression brought on by dark surroundings and a crushing sense of hopelessness. All of this most certainly comes through in the vocals, as guitarist/vocalist Ethan Lee McCarthy sounds like he recorded these songs in his most pained and desperate moments.
To the newcomer, this album may just sound like aggressive noise on first listen, but the chord movements are deliberate and thoughtful. This becomes evident in the opening track “The Lifer”, where a descending chord progression drags us down into the abyss that is Immersion. Both this track and the following track “Entity” make great use of this tremolo guitar that brings a sense of cosmic dread to the songs. “Entity” also makes fantastic use of suspense. The song takes over two minutes to lock into a formal groove, but every second of the intro has the thrill of a horror movie.
Though the album lies mostly in the low and slow, it’s not without its curveballs. On “Menacing”, the band just starts blasting before taking the listener through a series of gripping tempo changes. “Consumption” starts with a driving groove and eventually veers into a pit of despair. Before that though, the band again provides some jump-scare blast beats. This song also has the album’s most poignant lyrics, really bringing home its themes of distrust amd despair.
The only skippable moment is the track “∞”. It mainly serves as a divider, a noisy interlude amidst all the chaos. Maybe someone more scholarly than I can appreciate the artistic intent here, but at best I can just describe this as a friendly but firm “fuck you” to the listener. Every other moment on Immersion demands your attention though. The album is deeply confrontational, and that really shows in every aspect.
If you’ve been following Primitive Man, Immersion is everything you could ask for. If you are new to the band, maybe give the album a few tries before making up your mind, you may just acquire the taste!
Primitive Man’s new album Immersion is out on August 14th via Relapse Records.
Best Tracks: Entity, Consumption, Menacing, Foul
Weakest Tracks: ∞
Overall Score: A