Metal trio Primitive Man connect the dark side of humanity with individual struggle on Immersion | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Metal trio Primitive Man connect the dark side of humanity with individual struggle on Immersion

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In one of Chicago’s most tumultuous 24-hour periods in recent memory, the city withstood a night of momentous civil unrest followed by a day of unsettlingly violent storms. By coincidence, I spent much of the duration listening to an oddly suitable soundtrack: Immersion, the latest full-length by Denver metal trio Primitive Man. Plenty of bands make music that feels overwhelming, but Primitive Man really earn this album’s title, plunging you so deep in the muck you have to dig yourself out. They’ve been doing that since 2012, when they emerged from their city’s underground music scene with a bludgeoning, oozing wall of sludge, noise, and death metal imbued with the struggles, turbulence, and decay of humanity. It can be tempting to paint the band as entirely fatalistic, and maybe they are in their view of power structures and man’s capacity to inflict suffering and injustice on others (though they’d probably say they’re “realistic”). But on Immersion, recorded in early March as the country first came to grips with the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re also concerned with how hardship impacts people on an individual basis, and with the drive to resist and rebel—even when doing so feels burdensome in itself. The tense opening track, “The Lifer,” casts a light on how the desire to create can be an Achilles’ heel when it comes to establishing security and creature comforts. “Menacing,” which alternates between a maelstrom of drums and guitars and chugging doom punctuated by the cavernous howls of front man and guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy, speaks to how a person’s character is shaped by challenges endured, and to how standing your ground and walking your own path can come at the price of loneliness. As dark as the album gets, though, it maintains a sense of strength and steadiness, and of speaking truth to power. Sometimes facing the vortex head-on can help lighten the load for someone else.   v

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