What’s most beautiful about Primitive Man’s latest release—Immersion, out now via Relapse Records—is not only how apt its title is, but how subjective the experience can be.
The Colorado-based sludge/doom/death act have never shied away from extremity, but their latest expression finds the band utilizing every noisy tool in their toolbox to deliver their most ambitiously loud, chaotic, and confident work yet. The album feels like a bleak work of art that can differ based on perspective.
Primitive Man take the album’s title to damn heart, as this really is an incredibly immersive experience. It’s also fascinating how, as a piece of noisy art, the experience changes depending on how I’m listening (earbuds, headphones, car stereo, computer speakers).
I can’t think of a record that works in all those mediums by allowing different sounds, textures, and tones to work depending on the quality of the audio output. It’s clear that every note was pored over, so how conscious was vocalist and guitarist Ethan McCarthy of how Immersion was going to sound?
“We have a pretty good idea of how we want it to sound,” he answers. “Even the random feedback elements and things of that nature are usually planned. When we rehearse, record, play live, it’s always super loud so that we know what sort of things the amps are going to contribute, vibration of the strings from feedback, etc. So, it’s more of a ‘controlled chaos’ thing.”
So, how did that translate when the band decided to take ideas and put them to musical paper? McCarthy explains:
“Our main goal was to be as biting and heavy as possible. Caustic was a more depressing record that focused on a glacial, smothering feel, whereas I think Immersion is more of a ‘being pummeled while you’re smothered’ sort of vibe, if that makes sense.
“So, we kind of utilized all aspects of what we are able to do, and instead of shying away from mid-tempo or faster things, we leaned into using them as a tool for this record.”
“Everything we do is just a natural progression,” he continues. “We are always trying to grow as a band and song writers, but being heavier than the release before is always a goal.”
Immersion feels like the perfect soundtrack for the chaos that is 2020. Augmenting the album’s pervasive darkness, there’s a persistent, lyrical anxiety that bores into the listener’s skull throughout the record.
It’s a sobering look within, hitting existential crises, mistrust of society, and the absolute shit state of the world in 2020. It’s not afraid to challenge the idea that perseverance is a wasted enterprise, either, as McCarthy shares:
“I speak on personal grudges, mental illness, the horrific social and political climate in America, the dark side of the music industry, the dark side of following your dreams, and how that can affect your relationships at home, with your peers, paranoid delusions, and so on.”
So, with all this darkness, is there any silver lining, any sense of hope? McCarthy would like to think so but really isn’t sure any longer.
“I end the album by asking ‘What now?’” he says. “Because the lyrics were written during the beginning of COVID-19, so I can’t say that it does end on a positive note. The album is really about struggling and trying to persevere no matter what kind of shit you run into. Basically [it’s saying], ‘I’m suffering, but I’m getting my shit together.’”
Thankfully for Primitive Man, McCarthy and co. have never had their shit together any better than they do on Immersion. It’s not an easy or comfortable listen, but like the best horror media, the truths about humanity and the self are presented magnificently and with great care.
Pick up a copy here.