Saturday, February 9, 2013

Primitive Man - Scorn

Hate is one of the most frustratingly hackneyed words thrown around every day by everyone to describe a multitude of negative feelings towards pretty much anything. Everyone does it, myself included. When associated with music, people point to the punk scene. Powerviolence, grindcore, and hybrid genres like sludge bear the brunt of this vacuous word. Occasionally you see it tossed around to describe metal as well, although for the most part most metal tends to be emotionally exploratory, often looking at things from an outside or distanced perspective as opposed to the in-your-face perspective of say hardcore.

Primitive Man know that while hate can be a legitimate feeling, they needed a stronger word if they wanted to title their music appropriately. Scorn is the one they chose to christen this vile beast, and holy fuck does it sound pissed off.

I went into this album expecting abrasive sludge with the occasional hardcore elements, but I got something much more oppressive. Scorn feels more akin to a funeral doom album thematically. Replace the empty void of death with an oil-coated ocean of bodies set to ignite and you'd have a pretty apt comparison. The second title track "Scorn" comes on, that writhing mass of flesh is set ablaze with flames of hate.

The 11-minute opener is an album highlight. One thing that grabbed me right away was the filthy bass tone and the barked vocals by Ethan McCarthy. There's something primal and furious about them that allows them to resonate so deeply within me as a listener. "Scorn" builds at a drunken pace, and the riffs are equally slow to match its plodding nature. The guitarwork is deliberate, littered with feedback, and thick with gain. Other than the minor tempo change in the middle of the track where some hardcore elements pop up, "Scorn" wallows in its own disgust and by the end all you hear is McCarthy vomiting up his own disdain into a storm of feedback. It's beautiful, really.

So entrancing is this vitriolic, negative atmosphere that it really colors the whole album and drags you down with it. At times you feel like the music shouldn't be as oppressive as it is, but the atmosphere makes it suffocatingly so. Even the heavily hardcore driven track "Stretched Thin" feels parched of all positive energy. There's a few semi-harsh noise tracks interspersed through the album ("I Can't Forget" and "Black Smoke"), but for the most part Scorn tends to play its tune to that started by its title track.

The gratuitous and downright sexy bass tone and playing by Zach Harlan helps further the all-encompassing mire-of-negativity feel. Slower tracks like "Antietam" and "Rags" all use this to their advantage. The guitar tends to find itself playing dissonant melodies, and at times is surprisingly layered (the brutalizing end of "Antietam" comes to mind). Drums are generally simple and drive the primary pulse of the tracks, but there are occasional fills and cymbal embellishments that make your ears perk up, usually when the tracks delve more into noise. The production and mixing is also stellar if a bit bass heavy. Something I never mind as you should know by now.

While I can see the noise, high gain guitar, and singularly pissed expression putting some people off of Scorn, for me it only made getting dragged into the mire it creates even better. Check out these guys' grind band too, Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest fire.

9.0 out of 10

1. Scorn
2. Rags
3. I Can't Forget
4. Antietam
5. Black Smoke
6. Stretched Thin
7. Astral Sleep


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