Both known for being two of the bigger players within the current sludge/noise landscape, Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance have collaborated with a full-on assault of dissonant noise and backbreaking riffs. Furthermore, unlike popular fashion, this newest split clocks in at just over forty-five minutes long; a must-have for any fan of either contributor.
As popular knowledge around these parts, it is well known that both Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance released two of the most popular albums within the subgenre back in 2017. The two are also signed to Relapse records, so I am sure that the label has wanted to put them together on an official release for quite some time now. Well, 2018 has been a great year for metal so far, and part of the reasoning behind such a claim lies behind the announcement of this release as well.
Right off the bat, as mentioned above, the split tallies in at the length of a traditional LP. This fact is especially noteworthy when considering that the most common length for splits within the metal genre usually last between ten to twenty minutes. Splits mostly refer to releases compromising of two songs, one from each contributor (hence the term). This one is notably special therefore, as the collaboration serves more towards the likes of a new LP from as it meets the length criteria and both bands have made a conscious effort to make the release play as such.
I quite enjoy the angle that Primitive Man takes with their music. The barbaric yet controlled vocal performances contribute significantly to the commonly-cited “heaviness” to their music. Such is best demonstrated on “Naked”, Primitive Man’s first official track on the split release. There is a certain aspect of progression to this song which expands enjoyably for its ten-minute duration. Following a droning guitar segment at the beginning, “Naked” devolves into this rhythmic pounding notion which works especially when coupled with vocalist Ethan McCarthy’s unintelligibly-great barking vocals.
I will say that I’m not the most avid fan when it comes to the overt noise/drone aspect of Primitive Man’s music. While a little misdirection within their riffs is part of the subgenre’s definition, including a nine-minute track that essentially consists of a ringing noise followed by a guitar riff that distorts itself into eternity (or boredom) doesn’t contribute anything more than me hitting the skip button. I mean, maybe that’s part of listening to the “album” front to back and necessary for the “experience”, but following a second or third listen, you’re skipping that track (which is called “Love Under Will” for the record). If I’m skipping it, then I’d rather have another song included rather than some sort of instrumental soundscape. Such a point is exponentially magnified upon the startled realization that “Love Under Will” and “Naked” are Primitive Man’s only contributions to the split. Perhaps one could raise the argument that the noise tag leans more towards inactive listening, acting as something to occupy the background of the room, hence the dissonant nature of the music; maybe I just don’t get it.
Now that Primitive Man has successfully cracked the stage, Unearthly Trance play clean-up-crew. The similarities between the two’s music becomes extremely evident once you get roughly halfway through Unearthly Trance’s first track. The two obviously meet the required criteria to pull off a split together; crawling guitar riffs, maniacal vocals, and dissonant atmosphere. However, Unearthly Trance plays more towards the black/death side of the equation. While their music remains acceptably labelled as noise/sludge, there is a tinge of blackened death metal in the mix that feels fresh, especially after Primitive Man’s weighty introduction.
While Primitive Man contributed two tracks to the release (albeit at roughly ten minutes each), Unearthly Trance delivers four numbers; thus results in a fair 50/50 divide in terms of time on the release. I was going to suggest that the split would have worked better if Primitive Man’s longer, more taxing tracks would close off the record, as the release could chronologically build up to a massive height of heaviness. Although, following a handful of listens, I find that Unearthly Trance’s more guided and consumable music gives the listener a well-deserved break from the pummeling that preceded.
Ultimately, the duo came out with a great collaboration. I’m thoroughly surprised that they didn’t announce a co-headlining North American tour. Perhaps their fanbases are too similar, and thus their show turnout would not be maximized. Either way, look out for some announcements from the two, I’m fairly certain that their split has been gaining some traction within the community and therefore the two might consider a set of live dates. Make sure to check out this release if you’re a fan of either band, but if you’re new to either of them I’d recommend consuming their most recent full-lengths instead. I really like the cover for this release though.