Sunday, January 13, 2013
Sunday Sludge: Primitive Man - "Scorn"
We're given glimpses of evil from time to time. Sometimes it's the news, sometimes it's exaggerated tales from a neighbor. Sometimes it comes in small enough doses to make a distant and cinematic immorality seem fun. Where Denver's Primitive Man flirts with evil is where they turn that flirtation into an exorbitant showcase of downward-trending values. Meld the evil with the scour and dirge and you've got more than a killer sludge record; you've also got a tag on your toe.
With Scorn, Primitive Man inject terror at every patch of soft skin, but they break from the pack with their offbeat and unexpected plateaus of pause. Scorn's seven tracks offer plenty from the sonic palate, scrumming between low and REAL low with enough vile shit to gag any maggot and excite any scheiße creeper. Slapping dense, teeming doom with gnashing, earthen interludes is only half the story. Primitive Man own the malevolence, smashing your jaw with a padlock wrapped in a sweaty gym sock. Why? Because fuck you, that's why.
Thick threaded toxins introduce the disc on its title track, shifting between agonizing and crushing/slow and very slow. Ethan McCarthy (Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire) forgoes dragging his feet for dragging your corpse, spraying vocal napalm amid a hover just above hell. Riffs command and subdue all senses as a doom cadence descends with crusted grime. Primitive Man threw away their metronome and borrowed Satan's grandfather clock. Scorched Earth passages are hardly fenced-in by McCarthy's gurgle, but waning moments bring an ever-slowing black-toothed grin, complete with helicopter chaos.
A balance of screeches and bass-dives spurs Rags, a lumbering loomer of (as expected) buzz and filth. McCarthy lifts his pipes from caskets to coffers, sinking with a grip on listeners' ankles. The plodding interlude, however, belongs to I Can't Forget. The track is straight-up trainyard terror, filled with shifty go-betweens and hunched parasites cackling in either ear. The very eerie, very evil drone tips and taps, wrapping itself in too-cool static. There's likely some backmasking in there, but I'm too paranoid to even try to bring sense to it.
The paranoia hits harder, however, on Black Smoke. Simplistic and perhaps my favorite track on the album, Black Smoke sounds like being swallowed whole. The Paul Revere gallop is a futile attempt at escape from creeping swarms of murderous gasps. Or you could say it sounds like ghosts fucking, in which case we'll call it "intermissionary." Stretched Thin is more sped-up than most of Scorn, finding delight in skin-breaking infliction. Loose bass threads highlight the quick, chaotic sludge, and the return to thunderous drums is just too cool to dismiss.
Finally, though, Primitive Man find their bread and butter on tracks like Antietam and Astral Sleep. The former's distant riffage crushes and eases the anticipation you've felt for twenty five minutes, humming and moving aside as drum crushes lead into an up-tempo thrash churn. Feedback chokes, progressive paces pick up, and you grow afraid of where you may end up. Stomping through conventional structures, Antietam leaves you in a cold piss puddle, blending drone with a slow-crawling, misanthropic dirge.
As for Astral Sleep, the slow sludge barely relents for a mid-tempo groove. McCarthy's vocal is only slightly more accessible, and the true churn only somewhat relents for a throaty, toadie thrash. But fuck the passivity and minimizations, these songs are gonna stick in your gray matter. Groove-laden and buzz-heavy, the murderous defiance of Astral Sleep wholly encapsulates Scorn's utter discontent.
To focus on the sheer malice of Primitive Man's Scorn is to miss the point entirely, but it does highlight our own fixations on good versus evil. The balance of sludge-doom hill tumbles and piss-break relapse isn't the disc's crowning achievement, but it sets up nicely. I can't say one element is more enjoyable than another, likely because Primitive Man are focused on inflicting rather than sharing. But Americans do so well at protecting abusers that it's stunning this album won't make its way to every trailer park bonfire and stiff-bitch cocktail hour. Whether you're the abuser or the abused, however, you're smokin' and smilin' as these songs play out. Turns out you're just as dirty as Primitive Man, you fucking sadist.