Split by Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance
I am quite divisive on the subject of splits. Pun very intended. Yes, already. But, seriously, I am. I am much more of an album kinda dude (shockingly). Even when a band releases a single, nine times out of ten I store it in the back of my convoluted psyche next to all the other doom, death, and lifting I gotta do. If for no other reason than I just enjoy listening to music the way it is intended be presented, not just a single or a mixed bag of songs contributing to a split or even EP. Which, I love EP’s, if they are constructed as such; meant to be listened to like an album, rather than rehashed old tunes or remixes fix up with one or two new singles. I feel the “single’ is usually not as strong on its own, but rather makes more sense and sounds better within the context of the record, that is, if the record is actually good. If were talking about 2:30 power pop tune, which definitely has its place, then by all means; single all the way. Not another stupid fucking pun in the first paragraph YOU SON OF A BITCH. Yes I did. Back to the split, I’ve always felt a little weird about it. I know it is very common in the underground metal/hardcore scene for two bands to share an EP’s length of songs together, aka the split. Each band will contribute a close to even number of songs in either quantity or runtime, and the result is usually, for me, consulted and underwhelming. UNLESS, that is, the two bands are a great match up, work together, perhaps feeding off one another, to create a musical venture that is cohesive, meaningful, and due to its usual brief runtime, to the point. Such is the case with the marriage of depressive sludge Denver dwellers, Primitive Man; and Brooklyn bad motherfuckers Unearthly Trance. The split, aptly titled, Split, has forced me to reevaluate my opinions on the matter due to its undeniable musical purpose and atrocious nature.
As this split is divided in a very cool, old-school-type way, Side A is Primitive Man. And, honestly, if they were not involved in this split I perhaps regrettably and dumbly would’ve overlooked it based on the fact that it’s a split - but Primitive Man is no stranger to splits, and just so happen to be one of my favorite bands in the game right now. So anything they do grabs my attention. And I have to hear it out. Coming off their critically acclaimed sophomore LP, Caustic, being one of my absolute favorite records of last year; and having seen them here in Pittsburgh on tour in support of that record (they fucking dominated, of course), I couldn’t have been more excited to catch wind of this Split. Excited to see what pure power and sludge-ridden hate I could be hit with, I threw it on to the sounds of Merging; a perfect instrumental introduction composed by both bands that undoubtedly perfectly sets the tone for the record. The droning and slow-building yet completely chaotic and threatening atmosphere clouds the airwaves as it bleeds right into the first Primitive Man offering, Naked. And this song is anything but. Sold so far on the atmosphere surfacing into Split, Naked picks up slowly but surely builds on that. Primitive Man are not one to jump the gun, waiting a full 3 minutes to let the razor sharp atmospheric pressure pollute your senses; then, as usual, absolutely wreck you with 11/10 power. It brings me back to the first time I had ever heard them, I FELT it. Primitive Man have such a distinct sound and hit with true and pure dark POWER that left me going “who the FUCK are these guys??” And I’ve been hooked ever since. Always a force to be reckoned with, they display mastery at creating a depressive and chaotic headspace with noise; and complimenting it ever so perfectly with extreme metal. And they don’t ever let you off the hook; their songs are slow but constantly building, adding eerie sounds, distortion and feedback howls, and vocals that’ll make your blood boil. Apparently Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Primitive Man is built on the impeding threat of sludge heavy thick power chords and percussion from a world below. The ten minute tune is beautifully rhythmic in the strangest sense of the world, yet ultra depressive and well, heavier than actual fuck. Its thick, gross, and toxic; with complements to the chef. But, like the good torture artists they are, the let the atmosphere marinate and the suspense climb; only introducing vocals halfway through the song. It might seem like a long wait, but the payoff hits harder than ever. As mentioned, the signature vocals come in with as much power as you could expect from them, straight from a nuclear reactor. If Godzilla can be summoned by music, Primitive Man is the culprit. Now that I think about it, Primitive Man HAS to be Godzilla’s favorite band… what other band could come close? So, there you have it. You heard it here first on Death Comes Lifting, don’t forget it. Anyway, this is obviously another awesome and signature heavy hitter from one of the best sludge/doom/extreme metal bands around. Relentlessly climbing like the mountains from which they hail, fueled by demonic drum patterns and pure hatred, Naked will leave you feeling just that way.. and whats wrong with that?
The next, and final, offering from our boys is a little bit different. Love Under Will is another 9-plus minute offering that starts much like the previous; riddled in a dark universe of slow depressive atmospheric horror. Sounds like my typical Tuesday. The feedback-heavy depressive sound of water dripping and rocks crashing set the tone for a song sounding like its being played in the elements of a haunted cavern in a cold, damp realm of this musical universe. The masters of depressive sludge metal undoubtedly let their grim and artistic side shine on this one, building on the sound effects with more sound effects and distortion and Godzilla is still over there throwing up devil horns. Love Under Will is a 9-minute never sharpening, haunting and agonizing, journey through a dark void. But, that’s all it is. For me, this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Especially being the last song offered by PM on the record, I feel like the haunting atmospheric noise should’ve been at least a little more balanced out with some of their signature heavy metal rather than a depressive 10 minute instrumental piece of headspace. Don’t get me wrong, maybe thats the point, and its FAR from a bad song, it just left me wishing there was a little more to it. Again, on a full album, this would be perfect; but on Split where they re getting 20 minutes of material, it seems more like a void filler rather than a void creator.
Despite Primitive Man going out with less than a bang, NYC steps up to the plate to wreck this shit a little more. Picking up where PM left off, Unearthly Trance introduces themselves via Mechanism Error; which is no error on their part. Definitely leaning toward the blackened and thrashier side of things, the crispy heaviness and catchiness of this track provides a great contrast (without being too different) to PM, and leaves a lasting impression burning in your psyche - or what’s left of it. Not necessarily positive by any stretch of the imagination but definitely more upbeat than the previous couple tracks, they do a nice job at complimenting the world created by PM previously and exist very well within it. If PM is Godzilla then Unearthly Trance is King Ghidorah. A little more going on, a little faster, a little more precise, maybe not as heavy and destructive; but definitely here to fight. OK, thank you for bearing with your boy, my inner nerd is fully satisfied and will dissolve into obscurity for the remainder of this review and I hope I got my point across.
Unearthly Trance far from stop there, providing 3 more shorter than PM but just as blistering, tracks that send the split off on the right note. Triumph is aptly titled because it sounds as such, a chugging and relentless black metal inspired groovy ripper that’ll all but loose your attention. Just for some sprinkles on top, this song also has our first taste of a real guitar solo that sounds perfectly in place with the rest of the record, despite it being the first time we hear it. It comes across absolutely perfect in the mix, not cutting through the thick atmosphere but rather lurking in the background, menacing and adding to it. What is really commendable about this release is that both of the bands sound as if they are playing within the same realm, although being pretty different from each other, musically. That is no easy feat and definitely will satisfy the most rabid of extreme music fans.
My vote for favorite track on the record, unexpectedly for me as I am such a PM fan, comes in the form of Reverse the Day. UT kick things off with an absolutely disgusting bass groove that doesn’t quit even when demonic vocals and extraterrestrial noise injected into it. The tune comes crashing down in every which way and leaves me wondering wether its pure sonic doom or musical brilliance… either way, it’s awesome. Only after that beast of a track does UR show off their more experimental side with a 6-plus minute conclusion, 418. A beautiful little obscure slice of metal that serves as another atmospheric highlight of the split and serves as a prefect way to end such a record.
It seems as though the Denver & Brooklyn marriage was a match made in the hell of distorted realms of sludge and despair from the voids beyond (that’s a compliment). And like any true radioactive dragon releasing tectonic shift, Split is not without its faults. But, at the end of the day, there’s plenty more good on here than bad (depending on your views of the world, I guess), and is a strong release in the underground metal community. If nothing else, it definitely invigorated my interest in split records, and made me appreciate both of these great bands more than I previously had. And, I hope it will do the same for you. Check it out. Play it LOUD. Summon monsters. All in a days work, kids.
Rock Rating: 3.5/5
Gym Rating: 4/5
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