Abstract is the new brutal. The principal focus of Extreme Metal has always been to make music that sounds as violent or destructive as possible, but over the last couple of years a growing number of bands in different sub-genres have embraced a more subtle approach. Whether it’s Gnaw Their Tongues and their followers blending Black Metal with Noise elements, Blut Aus Nord embracing dissonance or Portal deconstructing familiar Death Metal into something totally other, it’s becoming more common to encounter Extreme Metal which doesn’t so much punch your face as make you doubt its existence.
Primitive Man are one of a current circle of bands – Sea Bastard, Keeper and Indian among their peers – engaged in stripping so-called “Sludge”, that ugly child of Punk and Black Sabbath, of its Blues influences and sense of groove and focussing entirely on its capacity for bleakness and discomfort, and are arguably the leaders in their circle when it comes to abstraction. Home Is Where The Hatred Is (Relapse) continues from their independent debut album Scorn with thirty minutes of abstract rhythms, broken chords and growled vocals that steadfastly refuse to describe anything as uplifting or recognisable as a riff. It’s a thick, genuinely unsettling morass of noise and almost ambient amp abuse, and when they do allow themselves a brief moment of Grind-fuelled violence at the start of Downfall it’s almost a relief – though one that’s rapidly overtaken as the song collapses once again into dissonance and atmospherics. There are similarities to Khanate, of course, in their use of dissonance and unorthodox song structures, but as their name would suggest they seem less artful and refined, more… well… primitive.
It is extremely difficult to criticise HIWTHI, not because it’s without flaws, but because any apparent weaknesses (tracks blurring into another; the lack of satisfying climax; the sense of dislocation and frustration that pervades) are so obviously the result of very deliberate choices by the band. They’re not bugs, to borrow from the clichés of IT, but features. This isn’t the dirty, angry Rock ‘n Roll of Eyehategod or Iron Monkey, and it doesn’t seek to press the same buttons – this is genuinely ugly, unsatisfying, dissonant music from a band who aren’t interested in catharsis or making you rock out.