Denver’s Primitive Man reach the apex of their insurmountably heavy and unflinchingly misanthropic and demoralizing sound with their aptly titled sophomore full-length, Caustic.
Due to their intense, foreboding sound and visual style and prolific nature, Primitive Man have been making quite the name for themselves and have been turning more and more heads as time passes. It’s not often you hear a band whose feelings of inner turmoil and disdain for humankind feel completely genuine and not fantastical. This Colorado trio seemed to have captured negativity and pessimism in its purest, unadulterated form through audio.
Primitive Man’s sound has evolved ever so slightly from 2013’s Scorn to present day, but just enough to be noticeable to those versed in the band’s back catalog. Tinges of the band’s defunct, more grindcore-oriented sister act, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, could be heard in the band’s earliest releases. As time passed their sound gradually became slower, more dissonant and noisy (which would seem unfathomable, but it happened) and much more suffocating. It’s almost as if the music of Primitive Man responds to its environment. With a society slowly crawling towards full collapse, it would make sense that their sound “devolve” along with it.
The long-awaited full-length follow-up to Scorn, Caustic, is the culmination of years of indulging with sonic nihilism, resulting in an 80-minute release that may be too much for some listeners. Caustic is nothing drastically different for Primitive Man, and for those who have listened to their material of the past year or so, its sound is not at all surprising. But what it lacks in variety and noticeable sonic shifts, it makes up for with ludicrous amounts of malevolence and atmospheres. And it is heavy. Boy, is it heavy.
Opening track “My Will” sets the scene for the album to come and immediately plummets the listener into an abyss of terrifying darkness and wrath. The guitars conjure simplistic, yet city-leveling riffs that come collapsing violently down with each and every chord. These disfigured, noise-ridden guitars are accompanied by thunderous bass lines and seismic drumming that work together to form a rhythm section that crafts sonic terror of its own. The icing on the doom cake is frontman Ethan McCarthy’s bellowing growls that spew lyrical venom all over the place.
Track’s like “Victim” and “Sterility” opt for a different approach than some of the other cuts on the record. These particular numbers begin with rampaging, dissonant, cacophonous riffs and stampeding percussion that slowly bleed into sprawling, towering doom and gloom and walls of noise, only to return again for a final barrage of grime and hate. Other tracks, such as “Sugar Hole”, also standout from the pack with its subtle angularity and blackened tremolo-picked riffs.
The album’s longer compositions, “Commerce”, “Disfigured” and “Inevitable”, represent the album at its most suffocating and unnerving. These tracks, each of which are over 10 minutes in length, combine the best of what Primitive Man have to offer. These songs slowly crawl across their lengthy runtimes, delivering corrosive doom riffs with almost Swans-like mind-numbing repetition. The pacing on these songs gradually slow and slow, sometimes becoming sparse and menacingly atmospheric. But, luckily, the band create walls of noise or deliver occasional blast beat-ridden, faster sections before the tracks become too meandering. By the end of these particularly tracks, if listeners haven’t checked them into the ICU or a psychiatric facility, it would be a surprise.
From start to finish, Caustic is completely unyielding, unforgiving and cold. Even the noise, experimental soundscape interludes aid in keeping the album’s atmosphere nice and full of dread. It won’t be for everyone, that much is certain. But those masochistic enough to be bombarded with 80 minutes of slow-burning hate and ire will fall in love with this noisy, torturous opus.
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Label: Relapse Records
Favorite Tracks: “My Will”, “Sterility”, “Sugar Hole” and “Inevitable”
For Fans Of: Coffin Worm, Usnea and Indian