Ethan McCarthy‘s myriad recordings under his classification of ‘Noise’ are what many of us might name Harsh Ambient or Ambient Drone. Dystopian, disturbian, yet with elements of clarity that break through the crushing sound (and occasional soundbites of sex), many fans will have encountered these often challenging passages through his work with Primitive Man and here with his solo project Many Blessings. Sophomore album Emanation Body (Translation Loss Records) embraces more atmospheric airs whilst retaining much of that visceral anger. Continue reading
Denver Stoner/Sludge outfit In The Company Of Serpents has spent most of its eight years as a fluctuating two-piece, with only vocalist and guitarist Grant Netzorg as the constant. The arrival of Vermin Womb‘s JP Damron to the drumseat has seen an expansion to a trio with the addition of ex-Black Sheep of Kali stringman Ben Pitts and, maybe as a result, fourth album Lux (Self-Release) adds elements of invention and atmosphere to the core sound, demonstrating welcome growth. Continue reading
There are two things that most definitely will not be missed when Manchester’s “Old Lady” is criminally levelled to make way for unnecessary and unwelcome redevelopment: the appalling quality of their draught ale; and the surly, unwelcoming behaviour of the corpulent head barman. Everything else about this wonderful little venue, from its weathered, ageing exterior to its intimate attic space, will be a terrible loss to the history and future of this proudly cultural city.
Battling against The Angus Young Quintet a mile up the road, tonight the S&G was treated to the second visit to the city in fourteen months from Denver monsters Primitive Man and their friends and touring partners, Brighton’s Sea Bastard. Repeating last year’s scenario, local Black Thrashers Satanic Dystopia dropped at the eleventh hour so it was left to fellow Mancunians Barbarian Hermit to blaze the trail. Though less sartorially striking than at the NOIZ All-dayer two months earlier, their Sludge-flavoured NOLA template woke up the room: charismatic frontman Si Scarlett’s roar carrying an incredible depth, his Ollie Reed-like features reinforced by the drama of his performance. With Scarlett and similarly-attired bassist Chris Wood launching their baker boy caps early doors, however, the lack of visual strike from this albeit powerful, entertaining band exposed the music which, despite the heavy groove and some electrifying leadwork from Adam Robertshaw, didn’t carry the intensity of the other bands.
As the first crushing chords came in, Sea Bastard frontman Monty looked as sleepy as his shirt. The south-east monstrosity came wading in, however, with the colossal weight and sluggish movement of a rudely-awoken Kraken. ‘The Hermit’, their massive contribution to the recent ‘split’ with their touring buddies, seemed so much more brutal live: Monty’s cavernous, blackened roar duelling with the sarsen-dragging rhythm section and Oli Irongiant’s crushing axe, entertainingly and expressively wielded as ever. The band are completely transfixing and, in this little room, the implosive, crawling portent made one feel physically sick in the most passionate, euphoric fashion. To witness Irongiant undertake the riff solo of the ensuing ‘Astral Rebirth’ and feel the pain of every chord was both moving, terrifying and euphorically ominous, foretelling the phenomenal crush that soon arrived and duly sent the rafters for cover. The subtle yet bewildering speed of bassist Steve Patton and touring drummer Sam Chase in the track’s quickening, meanwhile, displayed the gamut of skill possessed by this unit: one of the greatest from our shores and certainly responsible for one of the all-time great performances here.
Primitive Man shouldn’t be here again, but thank fuck they are. Their sound is a hideous joy: Ethan McCarthy’s diseased, crazed delivery comes from one of the nicest guys around, his bulging eyes as terrifying as his roaring mouth, which gave the impression that his whole face was opening. Jonathan Campos’ bass, in turn, isn’t a bass: it’s 20,000 articulated engines crushing your soul with every pluck of the string. New drummer Joe laid waste to his kit, McCarthy eyeing the ceiling with the torment and belief of a guy who’s actually seen God. Suddenly, all of the musicians who’d appeared earlier were transfixed, videoing the performance as if we’d never see the Man’s like again. The pace switched whilst maintaining the horror, a stark isolation blending with raw emotion, and to do that with such pregnant hostility was utterly enthralling.
The vicious, howling breakdown of the set closer (“Just a new track” McCarthy typically understated later) is the most harrowing expression of pain and hate I’ve ever witnessed, turning possessed devotees into shirt-ripping zealots with the sheer uncontrollable tension of it all. Shattered, spent, deaf, and grinning from ear to ear, I was by no means alone in caring not a jot for any damage done to my creaking body. It was a joyous surprise to see both of these bands so soon, and who knows how long it will be until the next time. When that does come around, there is quite simply no good reason for your absence.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
Around the same time last year, Primitive Man and Sea Bastard released two of the most hateful – and well received – products of the year. The former’s vicious EP Home is Where the Hatred Is (Relapse) and the latter’s nightmarish split with Keeper (Dry Cough Records) were followed by a joint tour of the UK last spring and, with this split release (Dry Cough Records), the bonds the two outfits have forged now become indelible.
Primitive Man’s two tracks kick us off, and with a familiar feel: the band’s squalling, Blackened Sludge given added horror by the face-melting roar of Ethan McCarthy. The clanking, Low-end ferocity of ‘Cold Resolve’ is certainly augmented by some of McCarthy’s most fearsome barks to date, and the portentous squeals of the sinister drop are enough to collapse the nervous system. The resonance of bass and drums launching us into ‘Servant’ also have a primal minimalism which clears the bowels: its fizzing, sparing riff a tolling bell which flays the skin with each swing, McCarthy’s voice the scouring brush rubbing salt in the open wounds, the brief quickening a Deathly flash. It’s a terrifying assault: appalling, guttural, startling, physically affecting…and damn satisfying.
Another near-20 minute slice of snaking pummel from Brighton’s finest closes this tormenting platter. ‘The Hermit’ largely follows the Bastard template but unusually, so gradually you hardly notice, it gathers pace through a viscerally pounding, pregnant centrepiece. Oli Irongiant’s deep, singular, painfully slow riff sets the tone before the lumbering behemoth is brutally awoken by the pulverising rhythms of Steve Patton and George Leaver. Telling the tale of the persecuted Northern monk St Cuthbert, Monty’s screaming roar wraps itself around the mellow hundredweight like your favourite Serpentine villain, rising and falling with each line, carrying that Sabbath-esque quickening toward a low, nefarious final movement which is both torturous and earth-shaking.
This “split” has been in the pipeline for some time and, thankfully, it’s been worth the wait. Crushing and hostile, these are two of the most exciting Doom-centric bands around right now and to have them both on one plate is a horrifying bliss.
With both Idols and Samothrace members involved, the melodic, mournful qualities of Un’s Funeral horror comes as something of a pleasant surprise.
The sparse, shimmering beauty of ‘Epigraph’, the opening track from début album The Tomb of All Things (Black Bow), gives way to the Bell Witch-esque ‘Sol Marasmus’: not quite possessing the pulverising claustrophobia of that band’s gut-wrenching intensity but with all of their emotion, the atmospheric mid-point coming across like a Doom-laden Amenra with the tortured holler of Conan’s Jon Davis atop it. The surrounding textures are heavy and lamenting, contrasting Monty McCleery’s voice: a roar of nefarious depth which leaves used tar barrels everywhere shuddering in fear. Humming, lowing riffs rumble without the expected crush, yet the drop to the gentle coda is so sudden it is paradoxically deafening.
The chord progression opening ‘Forgotten Path’, meanwhile, is an utter reducer which invokes images of Dylan Desmond’s petrifying bass work, whilst the crash introducing a heart-rending melody awakens the listener from their cocooned stupor. Again, the descents into quiet introspection are as startling as the reanimation, which is occasionally quickened by Andrew Jamieson’s artful stickwork, yet always possesses the gravity of the saddest moment of your life. McCleery’s vocal is Ethan McCarthy-like in its fearsome power while the lead and rhythm guitars blend the inconsolable musicality of Pallbearer and Vulgaari with sinister overtones.
Those drums patter delicately across ‘Through the Luminous Dusk’, gorgeous post- melodies offsetting the guttural agony of the enveloping roars and screams. Whilst the overwrought soloing is occasionally more at home in a Rock ballad, Jamieson’s sticks, gradually increasing in power, maintain the track’s impact. The sumptuously mellow chords introducing the closing title track, however, regain that emotive quality and set the scene for some truly crushing riffs which are only augmented by that funereal pace.
Exquisite and poignant leadwork befits the closure of an album which, for the most part, balances perfectly its light and dark elements. A blackened scream takes us into an explosive, stirring finale and fully embodies the anger, pain and crippling sadness coursing through an affecting and memorable release.
If this place does indeed close later this year, there will be mixed feelings. Despite the incredible sound few, least of all photographers, appreciate the subterranean levels of darkness; even less are fond of the bloody great pillar obliterating the view of a third of the stage.
Backing up last year’s highly-rated début album Dormiveglia (Church of Fuck Records), Barnsley’s Trudger opened proceedings with a seriously impressive showing. Vocalist Chris Parkinson prowled the apron, his back to the crowd, his cavernous roar coating the irresistible blend of Hardcore, Sludge and Post atmospherics in murky phlegm.
Full of amusing anecdotes during their soundcheck, Brighton Funeral Sludgers Sea Bastard’s monstrous tales of horror are nevertheless fed from a natural gravitas: opening track ‘Door Sniffer’ a titanic weight upon the strongest shoulders, vocalist Monty’s demeanour at the coda both static and electric. The crowd were transfixed by the plummeting, sparing chords and funereal weight of recent split contribution ‘Astral Rebirth’: an implosive, eviscerating mass, shrinking heads with its unfathomable power. Skyscraping guitarist Oli Irongiant’s heavily-tattooed torso rocked and swayed as bassist Steve Patton knelt in studious, faraway contemplation of the sheer expanse of sound; whilst the scything, slashing coda was both brutal yet swaddled in the band’s collective confidence and ruthless execution. There will be few more impressive tracks this year, and there’s arguably no more involving, crushing UK act at present.
When your shoulders begin to ache and your balls quiver in their home, you know you’re witnessing something unspeakably affecting. Surrounding each other like they’re the only people who know just how they feel, Denver trio Primitive Man laid pure fucking waste to the venue. Colossal rhythm section Jon Campos and ‘Spy’ threatened the City’s architecture; while frontman Ethan McCarthy’s febrile tension was palpable, biting his guitar strings during horrific opener ‘4330’, the infamous bark like no vocal emission I’ve previously encountered. ‘Bag Man’ is utterly terrifying, every word of McCarthy’s tirade flung from his face with honest feeling, the power almost unbearable yet strangely cathartic and enlivening. ‘Antietam’, a microcosm of despairing misanthropy on record, was vomited forth with heartfelt malcontent, leaving those of us who’ve experienced such issues twitching, pounding monitors and shaking our heads in awe-struck wonder. ‘Loathe’ sealed the lid on a cacophonic show of mortifying power and untrammelled bitterness. Transcendent in a painful, shocking way, Primitive Man are unmissable.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
The calm, traditional setting of Manchester’s Crown and Anchor suits the affable off-stage demeanour of Primitive Man vocalist Ethan McCarthy, and Sea Bastard guitarist Oli Irongiant. Strange for two men whose bands purvey some of the most brutal, Sludge-based horror around today. Before resuming their joint UK tour in the City, we spoke candidly about the tour itself and their forthcoming dual ‘split’.
How did the tour come about?
Oli: We became good friends last year when my other band, War Wolf, supported Primitive Man in Brighton. Ethan stayed at our house…
Ethan: After I returned home Oli sent me some Sea Bastard stuff. We really liked it, so we talked about doing a joint tour.
You both have a pulverising, malevolent sound. How does that translate to the live setting?
Oli: It’s always more visceral live, and it fits really low in the mix which I love. It’s like hearing somebody screaming in a hailstorm.
Ethan: ‘Visceral’ is the perfect word to describe it. You definitely feel it a lot more than you would on a recording. I guess I reach those vocal levels because I smoke a lot! I’m just trying to make it sound how I’m feeling.
Both bands are pretty prolific, and it’s Primitive Man’s second visit to the UK inside a year. How do you afford it financially, and do you have time for a private life?
Ethan: All three Primitive Man members have regular day jobs, so we’re just saving our money to help us do this thing we love. The experience of getting out there, meeting people, sharing our art…
Oli: None of us will come away from this tour with any money to spend, even on new equipment. We’re doing it because we love playing music. We’re ‘Lifers’ I guess. With such negative music, it’s cathartic for us as well as the audience: getting rid of horrible thoughts in this impulsive, intense setting. It’s the best feeling in the world. I’ve been working hard all year, and this is my holiday!
Ethan: I get rid of all my frustrations playing live. It does mess with your private life though. Sometimes your employer’s not OK with the extended time off work. It’s a tricky thing to balance, although my wife is very supportive. But I have to do it. I couldn’t live my life without knowing that I had something like this coming up.
Oli: I’d go crazy without it. A lot of the guys suffer from different kinds of depression, and there are demons we all need to get out. This is our release.
When can we look forward to your joint ‘split’ disc coming out?
Ethan: We recorded our two tracks the week before we came out here. I feel they’re the most pissed-off things we’ve ever done. Our other stuff is angry and dark, but these songs are super-fucking-mad. I feel they’re a little bit different to much of our other stuff. They’ll be mastered within the month, so then we’ll start talking to some labels.
Oli: I’ve just heard the unmastered versions and they’re so fucking heavy, I can’t imagine what it’s going to sound like with the bass turned up! We’re contributing one track, but it’s going to be the longest thing we’ve ever done, with some of our heaviest, fastest and slowest sections yet. I can’t wait.
You both write some pretty nasty stuff. Where does it come from?
Ethan: A lot of my stuff comes from the American Experience: the police, being disenfranchised in coming from the slums, and personal issues such as depression. So I’m writing about life experiences really.
Oli: We use nightmarish fantasy elements to deal with some heavy shit; metaphors for how we’re feeling. We all deal with depression on a daily basis, and our music is our catharsis. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life; I feel that contributes to me liking the heavy side of things.
Ethan: Who can’t relate to beasts and evil characters, y’know?!
Amen to that. Those live shows were utterly monstrous, and the forthcoming ‘split’ promises to further both bands’ reputation as fearsome, crushing purveyors of real issues that we all deal with.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN
Primitive Man is streaming the NSFW music video for “Bag Man” off their new EP, Home Is Where The Hatred Is, out via Relapse Records, here. Co-directed and created by Marcos Morales and Neil Barrett of Novel Concept TV and produced and conceptualized by Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy.
PRIMITIVE MAN w/ Sea Bastard:
Mar 30: Unicorn – London (UK) (w/ Sea Bastard)
Mar 31: Zanzibar – Liverpool, (UK)
Apr 01: Roadhouse – Manchester (UK)
Apr 02: South Sea Live – Sheffield (UK)
Apr 03: Head Of Steam – Newcastle (UK)
Apr 04: Nice N Sleezy – Glasgow (UK)
Apr 05: Bannermans – Edinburgh (UK)
Apr 06: The Pit’s – Kortijk (BE) (w/ Fister)
Apr 07: Het Bos – Antwerp (BE) (w/ Fister)
Apr 08: Vera Groninge (NL)
Apr 09: 013 Venue – Tilburg (NL) (Roadburn Festival 2015)
Apr 10: 1000fryd – Copenhagen (DK) (w/ Fister)
Apr 11: Urban Spree – Berlin (DE)
Apr 12: Modra Vopice – Prague (CZ) (w/ Fister)
Apr 13: Chemiefabrik – Dresden (DE) (w/ Fister)
Apr 14: L’usine Geneva (CZ) (w/ Fister)
Apr 15: Freakout Club – Bologna (IT) (w/ Fister)
Apr 16: Lo-Fi – Milan (IT) (w/ Fister)
Apr 18: Jugendhaus Kloster – Weil der Stadt (DE) (w/ Fister)
4/19/2015 Ogden Theater – Denver, CO w/ Sleep
May 16: TBA – Omaha, NE
May 17: The Black Hole – Cedar Falls, IA
May 18: Skeletunes Lounge – Fort Wayne, IN
May 19: The Sanctuary – Detroit, MI
May 20: Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
May 21 – 24: Maryland Death Fest – Baltimore, MD
May 25: TBA – Washington, DC (w/ the Body Water Torture, Wake)
May 26: Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
May 27: JJ’s Bohemia – Chatanooga, TN
May 28: The Demo – St. Louis, MO
May 30: Flux Capacitor – Colorado Springs, CO (No Wake)
Jun 17: Total Drag Records – Sioux Falls, SD
Jun 18: Hexagon – Minneapolis, MN
Jun 19: Club Garabaldi’s – Milwaukee, WI
Jun 20: Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL
Jun 21: Death House – Grand Rapids, MI
Jun 22: Mr. Roboto Project – Pittsburgh, PA
Jun 23: Good Weekend – Allentown, PA
Jun 24: Sidebar – Baltimore, MD
Jun 25: The Maywood – Raleigh, NC
Jun 26: New Brooklyn Tavern – Columbia, SC
Jun 27: Uncle Lou’s – Orlando, FL
Jun 28: Churchill’s – Miami, FL
Jun 29: Epic Problem – Tampa, FL
Jun 30: 529 – Atlanta, GA
Jul 01: The Stone Fox – Nashville, TN
Jul 02: TBA – Kansas City, MO
Jul 03: South LuLu Temple Of Doom – Wichita, KS
Jul 04: Glob – Denver, CO
w/ Opium Lord
Jul 16: TBA – Kalamazoo, MI
Jul 17: Coalition – Toronto, ON
Jul 18: TBA – Montreal, QC
Jul 19: Middle East – Boston, MA
Jul 20: Funky Jungle – Providence, RI
Jul 21: TBA – Long Island, NY
Jul 22: Bar – New Haven, CT
Jul 23: Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY
Jul 24: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
Jul 25: Ace Of Cups – Columbus, OH
Jul 26: Jackpot Music Hall – Lawrence, KS
Aug 10: Fly Catcher – Tucson, AZ
Aug 12: 5 Star Bar – Los Angeles, CA
Aug 13: Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA
Aug 14: Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA (Oakland Deadfest 2015)
Aug 15: Oakland Metro – Oakland, CA (Oakland Deadfest 2015)
Aug 16: Starlite- Sacramento, CA
Aug 18: Rotture – Portland, OR
Aug 19: Obsidian – Olympia, WA
Aug 20: Highline – Seattle, WA
Aug 21: Black Sparrow Tattoo – Billings, MT