If you ever get some smart arse saying metal is just a load of noise, play them Primitive Man. You won't change their mind, and in fact they might need counselling afterwards to help repair it, and they may even never speak to you ever again, but least you can go back to wrestling with the mysteries of Primitive Man's sheer caustic nihility. For anyone who enjoys a drop of the heavy stuff, even you have to admit that Primitive Man is a load of unpleasant noise. Seriously. So much so that even the most seasoned listener will be shaking their heads and wondering just where it all went wrong for the Denverites to produce music this vile and tortured. 2020 has been, well, 2020, so the release of a Primitive Man record hits like a sack of cobblestones to the face.
You might think labelling an album as the most misanthropic this year might be a slight exaggeration, and you'd be right. But then everything about Primitive Man is exaggerated: the slow bits are slower, the feedback is nastier, the soundscapes are more nightmarish, and the deep-throated screams...oh the deep-throated screams. Such hyperbole is usually not even the domain of even the most fevered PR rep. Anyone familiar with previous longplayers 'Scorn' and 'Caustic' will understand they lived right up to their titles. 'Immersion' suggests a marginally more gentle experience, but not a bit of it. Veterans of Primitive Man (although “survivor” might be a more accurate term) will know the tar-thick tones and cathartic cacophony of a sound that will hold you down like sleep paralysis and scream nightmares in your face, and that will be your whole world. That's what 'Immersion' is: a challenging record from start to finish. 'The Lifer' is the rather sedate but no less sinister opener here; seven minutes of tension tightly wound before 'Entity' swings like Death's pendulum back and forth between sinister slow doom metal and treble-heavy black metal.
Such a dynamic is hardly a revelation in the extreme metal genre; combining the slow and the fast has been a staple of music since people in loincloths started scraping rocks together. But even with centuries of evolution, Primitive Man have seemingly endless ways of combining elements of crust, sludge and black metal into songs. It's absolutely relentless and at times it takes a strong ear to get through; 'Foul' follows on from the hissing unsettling industrial soundscape of '∞', on a bed of treble-heavy guitars that wouldn't be out of place on a first wave black metal album. This alone should key you in that there's far more to 'Immersion' than might appear. Every hanging chord is a noose laden not only with the weight of the world, but with purpose. Every ominous drum line and tempo change evoke a sense of unease. Odd-timings are at play, chord changes are attended to with meticulous care: they haven't just stumbled across these structures by accident. 'Consumption' teeters round like the death throes of a nightmare, finally letting go with one final tortured scream of feedback before sinking into the deep, thick black lava.
In truth, it's not a massive evolution for Primitive Man, but then it doesn't need to be. 'Immersion' is only in relative terms the most appropriable release PM have come out with, as it still sounds like a terror on toast. What they have is a tar-thick combination of doom metal, crust and noise layered with grit and filth and lacerations. How much they can keep up this level of psychosis and rage, and more importantly, their grip on what makes their near-toxic blend of unpleasant noises actually listenable for even the toughest of ears. Given past form and the events of 2020, you wouldn't bet against them.
'Immersion' is out now via Relapse