Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance‘s split is about noise and sludgy, skull-breaking riffs. It’s about atmospheric suffering and how to create hateful doom by only alluding to it half the time. It’s a split whose pitch-black heaviness is constantly lurking in the background, waiting. Watching. Occasionally striking but never killing. Teasing but never getting to the act itself.
The split opens with a collaborative noise effort “Merging” before beginning its slow descent into the sweltering bowels of hell, courtesy of “Naked” by Primitive Man. “Naked” is a more aggressively noisy version of the sludgier tracks found on their 2017 album Caustic. It builds on what “Merging” was doing, but in that special Primitive Man way where the distortion sizzles like burning static as the band powerfully stomps further into the shimmering black gates of the void.
Then there’s “Love Under Will.” The song is clothed heavily in reverb as echoing bass thunders in the background and occasional noises come a little too close to your ears for comfort. There’s also a detuned voice sample in the second half of the track that gives the atmosphere a very “empty airport in the center of a nightmare” feeling. The walls are cover in mold. The lights only dimly flicker. There are screams. Distant, but still a little too close. Primitive Man‘s side of the split clocks in at about 19 minutes over the two songs, but damn is it good. Both tracks play off each other really well, going from abrasive noise to crushing doom, and then letting it all fall apart into absolute nothingness. If there’s a band that can properly convey the sounds of pure, unchecked nihilism, it’s Primitive Man. It’s always been Primitive Man.
Unearthly Trance takes a more varied approach to their end of the split. “Mechanism Error” and “Triumph” come crashing down on you after the delirious, swirling noise of Primitive Man closes out. Both songs are traditionally muddy doom with scathingly screamed vocals overtop, which is what you’d expect from Unearthly Trance. It’s a good thing – Unearthly Trance only recently came back after seven years of inactivity and their output on both this and Stalking The Ghost prove just how viable they are in modern metal.
As their half of the split wears on, they too succumb to the overarching style of noise that seems to hold the split together. “Reverse The Day” has more obliterating riffs like its two predecessors, but they rest comfortably atop a bed of noise that underlines the track, and even back the vocals exclusively at points. “Reverse The Day” devolves into “418,” whose runtime is just hateful, loud noise in the vein of “Merging” with tortured vocals overtop.
The thing I love about this release is that it’s two bands finding common ground without trying to be one another. Both sides of the split have two common themes running through them – slow, bludgeoning riffs and varying degrees of abrasive noise. Unearthly Trance takes a louder, more relentless approach to the sound by trying to bury the listener under tidal waves of distortion, while Primitive Man crafts an unbearably hateful atmosphere on their side that looms over your head and engulfs you in the darkness.
The end result is something dark and openly averse to any and all living things. It’s a split whose two sides will both shoot you endless streams of loathsome glares as they leave you chained the walls to starve in the lightless rooms they’ve built. You’re unwelcome, but you’re going to keep listening anyway. You have to.