Published Aug 11, 2020Existentially speaking, music allows us to reflect and share our perceptions of reality. With the current state of the world being one of unyielding misery and discontent, one would be forgiven for throwing their hands up, revelling in the "doomer" memes and embracing a thoroughly existential soundtrack for these end times. After all, even Taylor Swift is infusing her chameleonic pop with dark and morbid sensibilities, a move that could almost be ripped straight from the frost-bitten trve kvlt playbook.
With this nihilistic context in mind, Denver trio Primitive Man have returned with Immersion, their bleak, aggressive third full-length and follow-up to 2013's Scorn and 2017's formidable Caustic. On their latest six-track LP, Primitive Man have painstakingly moulded seething rage, acerbic ferocity and cacophonous lurching into a malevolent morass of glacial sludge and obsidian doom metal.
The listener feels the full weight of this aural assault within the first ten seconds of lead single and album opener "The Lifer." Joe Linden's thunderous percussion and Jonathan Campos's earth-shaking bottom end give way to guttural hell-spawn bellows, as guitarist and vocalist Ethan Lee McCarthy roars through nearly eight minutes of lumbering riffage and vitriolic self-hatred. With a mental spotlight on the struggles of creative stagnation, sacrifice and "monetization of the self," McCarthy's lyricism turns pointedly inward: "I used to be grounded / But true reality is hell / And hell is hell / Smothering and cruel."
Acting as waypoints between the record's more extended compositions, tracks like "Entity" and "∞" serve as broadcasts from a purgatorial wasteland of droning ambience and ear-piercing feedback. Album centrepiece "Menacing" is the raw, bloody, beating heart of Immersion, pulsing with Primitive Man's restless energy and innate savagery. McCarthy and Campos unfurl churning riffs against Linden's chaotic blast-beats before the track sinks deep into a murky, whirring dirge. Here, McCarthy's stark anguish is suddenly — and violently — retched outward at a meaningless world devoid of promise and divine purpose: "Nature / Rapes / Nurture / Vomit / Earth / Why did God make me to scream out of my fucking soul?"
Alongside their contemporaries in Bell Witch and Cult Leader, Primitive Man have become experts at utilizing their subterranean dynamic range to excavate dramatic tension and contemplate the void. "Foul" settles in on McCarthy's repetitive guitar motif, interspersing moments of grim silence with Linden's tom bursts and Campos' bass rumblings. Album closer "Consumption" is front-loaded with last-minute fury, bristling with tectonic fills and screeching guitars that slowly ring out into the expanse of a lifeless abyss. One noticeable complaint, however, is the length. With Immersion clocking in at a brisk yet entirely oppressive 36-minutes, the album sits narrowly ahead of 2015's Home Is Where the Hatred Is EP and trails well behind Scorn and Caustic.
But make no mistake, Immersion is heavy in almost every conceivable sense of the word. It's the creative result of hatred and disgust and malice, of embracing the downfall of human civilization with a bitter sneer and a complete lack of remorse. It's the sonic equivalent of a black hole — dark, violent, unfathomably dense — rapaciously devouring all light and matter, ripping apart the very fabric of spacetime. It's about as close as we can get to hearing the entropic heat death of the universe and our slow, inexorable march to nothingness. And frankly, we deserve every single second of it. (Relapse)