The allure of extreme music, for most, comes from its roots in counter culture. The hippy-dippy era had no idea what the hell was happening when Iommi picked the first distorted tritone. Fast forward all the way to the present day and a lot of extreme music can be branded and catered to specific groups. Counter culture is consumer culture. Honest extreme music is much more difficult to come by and much more difficult to consume when it finally shows up. It doesn’t get much tougher to swallow than this. Primitive Man are the embodiment of an “acquired taste”; the Denver residents playing doom that most fans of doom can’t even stomach. Consumption of their new full length Caustic is not advisable for anyone of a weak disposition.
At 75 minutes in length and containing maybe seven notes, this is an arduous listen for anyone unprepared for an actual wall of distortion and desolation to repeatedly pound their face into the concrete. The trio push the limits of sadism on this record, almost to a point where die-hard noise fiends will crack up at how utterly devastating it gets. It’s definitely not meant to be funny, it just kind of takes the piss with it’s length and energy sapping nature. This is going to put plenty off but at least there are still a handful of shorter tracks that can be imbibed by a passive listener. Enough so that everyone will take notice of just how crushing Caustic is.
Taking production cues from their most recent split with Northless, the planet leveling bass anchors every track, sounding more like a star collapsing than a musical instrument. Guitars screech in and out, shoveling smut over the already lecherous doom grooves; don’t be mistaken, there are riffs and grooves to be found on this record. “My Will” and “Victim” open the record with tinnitus inducing violence, leaving the rest of the album to decelerate into an agonising stomp of not so passive aggression. Shifts in pacing are few and far between but when they do kick in – they provide the most brief of respites. There are so many decibels in play here and they all hit right between the eyes; soft spot where a migraine spreads its awful tendrils from. Primitive Man do this better than anyone else, ensuring even the space between kick and snare hits is filled with ill intent.
That’s all fine and well. At this point the world of extreme music knows that these Coloradans can choke the air out of a room with noise. What shapes these aural bombardments into a cohesive piece of nihilistic art are the violent, often unsettling lyrics. “Commerce” reads, and feels, exactly like the demoralising slog of punching in for a nine to five:
“And your heart being ripped from your chest
Placed into the cavity of another worker bee
Another fucking wage slave
Paycheck to paycheck
Your essence is dead but slavery is forever”
Anyone who punches that fucking ticket knows exactly how small one can feel when scraping by, day to day. Primitive Man encapsulate this misery in a way only they can, using tools of blackened doom to convey the bleak nature of simply existing. The most open nerve that Caustic exposes lies within the words of “Disfigured”, a deeply personal confession, drawing on McCarthy’s heritage and the vile treatment received because of it. The track is fittingly depraved and downright unpleasant to listen to, mirroring the message down to a tee. Life isn’t pleasant, especially when one is made to feel like a stranger in their own skin. These feelings are the fuel for the raw fire that this band dole out in heaped, distorted spades.
Caustic is going to be way, way too much for most but that’s kind of the point; Primitive Man don’t exist to pander to the hordes and aren’t ashamed of this in the slightest. Casual fans will appreciate the oppressive heft and total misery delivered by this hour long punishment, of course. The real winners however are the ones with the patience to get under the surface of what is easily the heaviest release of 2017. Their reward is a strange one, having eyes opened to the every day horror that lurks behind the smothering nature of social media and pop culture; all while getting beaten by the ungodly wall of noise that meets them. Art should reflect it’s surroundings and this is a near perfect example of this: the worst of the human condition, condensed into a darkly poetic display of doom metal. Plus it’s super fucking heavy, which is just fantastic.
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Caustic is available now via Relapse Records.