Primitive Origins: Primevil’s Smokin’ Bats at Campton’s

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

Primevil were a proto-stoner band from Indiana, and 1974’s oddly named Smokin’ Bats at Campton’s stands as the sole documentation of the group’s time rockin’ out (the Campton in the title is, presumably, vocalist Dave Campton). With a very metal cover and band logo, we knew that this one was worthy of further Decibel exploration, so we dove in to see what was behind that ultra-evil cover (spoiler: nothing evil).

The album starts out with “Leavin’,” a rockin’ stoner-rock number that features some very killer, heavy riffing that looks ahead with a wink and a nudge to NOLA metal and early stoner rock:

“Progress” is a killer tune, the band alternating between happy ’70s guys and crushing stoned ’70s guys with ease, laying down riffs somewhere between Sabbath and Zeppelin along the way. “Fantasies” is a killer, sprawling instrumental that never lulls the listener to sleep, instead taking them on a journey through ’70s proto-stoner that borders on prog.

That cool tune is followed up with what most of these proto-metal albums must have, the short, upbeat, boogie rocker; here, it’s “Pretty Woman,” a decent enough rocker that finds the band shuffling and grooving. It’s one of the weaker points on the album, but still has its charms:

“Tell Me if You Can” starts off with a quick burst of speed before the band lays down a killer half-time proto-NOLA-metal riff that would fit in just fine on a modern-day Crowbar album if it was played just a touch slower. Then it’s on to “Hey, Lover,” a quick two-and-a-half minute rocker that starts off with some killer off-kilter riffing that jolts into a boogiefied trip down stoner lane; this is a cool, raucous and lively song:

“High Steppin’ Stomper” is next, and it’s full of more great riffing, the main thing here separating the band from any number of second-tier ’70s rockers. Tons of energy, tons of cool guitar work. The album ends off with “Your Blues,” which is, unfortunately, a slow blues number. Hey, it was the ’70s: this stuff was practically mandatory, and credit must be given where it’s due—Primevil actually pull this off with some grace and style:

Primevil laid down tons of great proto-stoner riffs on this album, and while it’s a shame that this release—which clocks in at a brief 36 minutes—is more or less all that remains of the band, it’s worth going back to it for a few listens, as the production holds up well, and it doesn’t have a lot of the proto-metal trappings that other, less confident, bands got mired down in (changes in musical style, obvious attempts at pop singles). This album has been reissued, so hunt down a copy and spend some time basking in the haze of the sweet, sweet leaf… I mean, riffs.

Primevil’s Smokin’ Bats at Campton’s The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Nope, the band’s energy does the trick.

Heaviness factor: Not approaching Sabbath levels, the band is a bit more rockin’ and focus on the good times, not the endtimes.

Obscura Triviuma: Rumour has it that the band destroyed most of the copies of their only other recording, the 1972 45 “Too Dead to Live,” because they didn’t like it.

Other albums: “Too Dead to Live” 45

Related bands: None that we know of.

Alright, fine, if you must: Weed, obviously.