Primitive Man Drag Their Scorn Into Modern Times
For Ethan McCarthy, rage corresponds to size. So many metal artists express their rage in a way that shrinks the impact of the music – excess computation, chaotic musicianship, forced lyricisms, and exaggerated image all blur and boil down to a diluted, ignorable portrayal in the name of rage. How are you supposed to honestly convey primal anger when your sound has been digitally compressed to the size of an ant? It comes down to an ontological difference: most metal bands have rage; Primitive Man are rage. The Colorado band’s debut full-length, Scorn, avoids pretension, frills, and falsehood, attaining immensity via an unembellished formula of hatred and dissonance.
Speed can significantly dilute anger. Bands that travel at extreme BPM near constantly sound mad, to an extent, but leaving some breathing room between the tempos would let listeners nurse their rage a little, allowing them to comprehend and internalize it. In the same way that a drawn-out endurance race is often ultimately harder than a series of sprints, Primitive Man’s glacial articulations grind us down for the entirety of the record in a way that forty minutes of tech-death couldn’t. The space in Scorn provides incubation for the anger and despair, making sure that they’re the only thing we’re focused on. McCarthy and co. are clearly practiced at this; even their breakneck sandblasting “funeral grind” project Clinging To The Trees of a Forest Fire takes time to pause the fury. The few times Scorn does go fast, it’s unexpected and searing, introducing open new miseries for us to ruminate upon.
Every sound here is mountainous. Despite the gritty, sewer-filth grooves, the production is cohesive and articulate. Jonathan Campos’s bass rumbles with explosive seismic force, while McCarthy’s guitars alternate between shrill acidity and toxic sludge. The atonal chord shapes and Bennett Kennedy’s drum fills churn up viscous dissonance, like in the plodding, decrepit grooves of “Antietam.” The band’s use of noise is closer to the haze of early Earth than the chaos of Portal, and it’s viscerally effective. On “Rags,” feedback perpetuates the misery, a razor wire of tension that keeps us waiting for it to dissipate but which never does, sticking it out all the way through the fade-out. Ambient interludes coat the agony in a heavy, opiate haze, although they don’t always add much to the album as a whole.
Hope is the last emotion you’ll find evoked on Scorn – It’s a bit like listening to Jesu’s self-titled album, but without the waves of reprieve. The few whispers of melody Primitive Man utters are no more consoling than the feedback and thunder are, only serving to give us an aching, wistful glimpse of what might have been before returning to the bleakness that actually is. At times (like at the close of the monstrous 12-minute opener), it feels like the walls and structure of the room we’re in are collapsing under the weight of the wrath. McCarthy keeps his vocalizations unadorned and apathetic, a blend of subhuman howling and misanthropy: “I live high and filled with scorn, fed up and raw. Hate everything. Hate everyone. I have forgotten how to live.”
Scorn’s success lies largely in its equilibrium. It’s strange to find something that feels so primal and simultaneously so well-thought out; most metal bands usually favor one or the other and end up with a misplaced affect or a misplaced sense of composition. Primitive Man manage to balance both, and the result is terrifyingly addicting and unforgivingly heavy – the only reason we’re motivated to recover from its weight is so that we can reach up and hit the replay button.