Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance in the singular are frightening enough propositions. Heavy to the point of scales breaking, miserable to the extent of inflicting a visit to the medical support services for some kind of mood lightener, these forces of unparalleled misery combined are so doomily dangerous as to almost require some kid of licence from a higher authority.
Both bands released elephantine albums last year and have mutually agreed to further the cause of indomitably suffering by forming a like-minded union of which this split album is the product.
Label: Relapse Records // Release Date: 8/17/18
Since Relapse Records reissued Primitive Man’s debut album Scorn in 2013 the Denver trio have emerged as one of the most innovative acts within the bleak and brittle chamber of the doom and drone sphere. A number of split Eps have followed before the band secured their sophomore album, Caustic, last year. Challenging the issues of the day on both a political and ecological level, there was no shortage of material for which the band’s chief songwriter Throughout this time the world has had to sit up and take notice as Primitive Man have toured with the likes of Hexis, Reproacher, Fister and Celeste.
After a combined 60-second intro of disorientating distortion Primitive Man reveal their hand with the first of their two tracks of which the dissonant ‘Naked’ is the first. The album’s longest track at a shade over 10 minutes, this is the equivalent of some kind of sonic battlefield, little if anything stirs, life in its usual form is nowhere to be found and all that we are left with is some kind of horrific afterworld infused by screeching guitar wails, cement mixer drums and when they finally arrive agonized deathly growls that are nearer bestial than human. The overwhelming feeling is one of decay and despair, the pace resoundingly slow, and the general ambiance shudderingly cold and vacuous.
The marginally shorter ‘Love Under Will’ starts disturbingly softly by Primitive Man standards to the point that you need to keep nudging the volume levels up to make sure there’s someone there. Sure enough, steadily this lumbering beast starts to stir, almost tangibly groaning like an elderly wildebeest slowly trying to get to its feet. It omits long gasps that could almost be the sound of a long dormant volcano finally starting to stir. This is the soundtrack to stark and scary nightmares, tension levels slowly ratcheted up when a few spoken words add another layer of misery while the a cold monotone line of distortion plays havoc with your sensibilities. The final couple of minutes probably sound how the end of the world will to those poor souls who are around to experience it.
While stretching things to say that Unearthly Trance lift the aural atrophy, the New Yorkers do nevertheless offer more formative song structures than Primitive Man. Their first roll of the dice is their longest at seven minutes, Mechanism Error. Fiery and fragmented and heavily immersed in a cloudy throbbing fuzz, within its threadbare textures distinctive and acutely defined rhythms are at work.
‘Triumph’ is like a pub drunk at closing time spoiling for a fight, anger oozing through its pores as vocals veer between hardcore yelps and more blackened bowel loosening growls as a storm gathers in intensity. ‘Reverse The Day’ explodes in a cacophony of feedback eventually settling into a groove although a far from comfortable one, as the riffs seem to attack like flying darts with the restlessness further amplified by some razored vocal snarls and challenging drum wall. Even that fails to match the apocalyptic destruction of album closer ‘418’ on which the lines of experimental engagement are pulled so tight as to be swallowed up in a giant pool of carnage.
This split needs a strong stomach for sure, but for those who can handle all that Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance have to throw at them, it’s a prospect to embrace.