Primitive Man has consistently released heavy records since forming six years ago, but Caustic, which dropped last year on Relapse, is the local sludge metal trio’s most abrasive to date. Caustic was written during the 2016 election cycle, when Donald Trump was declared president, and amid heavy media coverage of African-Americans being killed by police, and the album's aggressiveness reflects what was happening.
“I think what I would call the decline of Western civilization that we’re experiencing definitely had an influence on this album,” singer and guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy says. “I mean, things are bad, so it’s going to make you feel bad and make your music sound bad. Caustic is definitely the least upbeat record that we have done. ... It’s the most bleak and terrible sounding — not only because of what was going on in the world, but [because] we all had a bunch of stuff going on in our personal lives. So it was just a real trying time.”
But while things were rough in the world when Caustic was in the works, they haven’t improved much, McCarthy notes.
“It was a terrible time,” McCarthy says, “[but] we’re living it now every day. We’re just used to it now. So I guess during the period that the record was written, I was just so shocked and upset about all that was going on. Now we’re living in it, so I’m less shocked.”
McCarthy says that making Caustic was a cathartic thing, but that goes for anyone who plays metal.
“That’s the purpose of playing metal, unless you’re in a party thrash band or a weed-metal band where you’re just having fun singing about your love of pot and singing about how you love to party," he says. "If you’re playing anything that has a negative edge to it, I think that’s what it’s for.”
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And sonically, McCarthy says the power and abusiveness of metal just hits you the way nothing else does. He says he likes a lot of different styles of music, "but really abrasive, loud, angry metal definitely hits you different than a rap record or electronic record or whatever. And also, a lot of times I feel like I don’t want to hear a Juicy J record or something when I’m pissed. I mean, maybe his earlier shit, but I’m not trying to hear that when I’m mad or depressed. I want to hear something that sounds like [metal]. It’s for that; it’s for healing and going through all that kind of shit.”
Primitive Man, which is releasing a split LP with New York’s Unearthly Trance on August 17, will be playing the two-day metal extravaganza Electric Funeral Fest III with a slew of other bands, including Speedwolf, Weedeater and Spirit Adrift, this weekend at hi-dive, 3 Kings Tavern and Mutiny Information Cafe. McCarthy says Primitive Man will do a more harsh noise/experimental set, something that the band has tried out at a couple of recent shows.
“We’re going to start to do it more and make it a more prevalent part of our thing,” McCarthy says. “We’re always going to play super-heavy sludge metal, but we’re going to do some other stuff, too.”
Electric Funeral Fest III, June 29-30 at 3 Kings Tavern, 60 South Broadway; hi-dive, 7 South Broadway; and Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway. Friday tickets and two-day passes are sold out, but Saturday tickets are available for $32 at Eventbrite.