Doom metal’s neanderthalic troupe, Primitive Man, descended upon The Bendigo Hotel for their first tour of Australia. The evening itself was packed with bands, 5 in total, all teetering similar ground and with the 4 supports being represented by local labels Trait Records and Impure Sounds.
I made an effort to arrive somewhat early to catch the long list of support acts. In part for their promotion before the show, and in part because I actually didn’t know much about them. Not quite arriving on time for Charnel Altar, the first group I caught was Sundr, who I was most curious to see. They belong to the Trait Records family, a label I own a few records by and have a lot of time for. To me, Trait are characterised by their leanings toward noise and experimental ends of extreme music, and the brief and informative band descriptions stuck to the front of their LPs. Sundr’s performance was heavy, meditative and pretty pleasing to my ears. While there was a few quieter post-metal esque passages between segments, Sundr really did highlight the heavier, punchier aspect of their sound that carried with it hardcore-esque screams.
I caught the final half of the death metal five piece, Ignivomous. I walked straight into a slow, drawn out funeral doom track that, as the vocalist rightly pointed out, was a good one for Good Friday. This track proved to be an outlier in their set as they quickly moved into faster, more traditional death metal tracks with a little pinch of thrash. Surprisingly, I caught a few of the lyrics in the death growls which sounded like they pertained to medieval themes and folklore tales. But it has to be said, the hero of this set was the drummer for his dedication to speed and blast beat facials.
The final support was YLVA, a post/sludge metal 4 piece from Melbourne. First things first, those goddamn lights. Long, vertical, icy white lights that burnt deep into your irises and lit up the Bendigo Hotel in its entirety. But the clarity of light equated to false hope as YLVA expelled despondent sludge and tortured vocals. YLVA’s songs seemed to revolve around post-metal crescendos, but interestingly, didn’t seem to build toward them. Ambient tinged passages of layered guitar and measured drum patterns plateaued rather than climbed. With little warning, the band would leap head first into segments of distorted sludge. Despite inevitable Neurosis comparisons, YLVA churned out a rather guttural form of post-metal that stands firmly on its own 2 feet.
While sure, people go to metal gigs a lot and regularly see speed, brutality and sheer excess, but these pale in comparison to the monolithic, death/doom extremity of a band like Primitive Man. While they performed there was no light, no clean air and no refuge from the nihilism emanated from the three men on stage. From the opening of My Will from highly praised 2017 album, Caustic, the endless rumble didn’t cease until the end of their hour long set. Ethan Lee McCarthy’s guttural death growls were unleashed from a deep (very deep), dark place within and permeated the entire venue. Heavily down-tuned guitar and bass drowned patrons further into a muddy airless void. The sheer commitment to unstoppably depraved sounds were impressive by any measure, but especially so when produced by a mere three people. There is no hope and no refuge from the uncompromising sound that Primitive Man bellows out. The exceptionally ‘metal’ patronage in attendance were moved, not only by sound, but the humble thanks that came after the set. A deeply punishing and richly rewarding evening, suitably scheduled on the holiest day of the year.