Full Split Stream: Primitive Man / Hell

You would be hard pressed to find two bands making heavier, uglier music than Denver trio Primitive Man and Salem, OR’s Hell. The former are still riding the wave of 2017’s Caustic full-length and 2018 split with Unearthly Trance and the latter off of their self-titled 2017 full-length, but this split may be both of their finest work yet.

Primitive Man control the first half of the split, issuing two new tracks. “Oily Tears” threatens to pull the listener into a swirling void of feedback, glacially-slow death-sludge riffs and occasional bursts of speed. Frontman Ethan McCarthy’s reverb-drenched vocals are instantly recognizable over the din as he roars, growls and sometimes gurgles over the chaos he and his bandmates create.

“Pitiful & Loathsome” is the more bleak of the two songs, somehow getting more dark and miserable than the track before. The slow parts of the song are almost agonizingly slow as noise and feedback threaten to consume the track.

It isn’t easy to to out-heavy Primitive Man, but Hell are the band for the task. “Nuumen” is more lo-fi and less all-consuming than Primitive Man’s offerings, but creator M.S.W.’s tortured vocals and use of atmosphere create an equally bleak soundscape. In this case, less is more, and it offers a break from the unrelenting heaviness that is Primitive Man.

In addition to a stream of the split, Decibel spoke with M.S.W. and McCarthy about their songs on the split. Primitive Man / Hell is out Friday on Translation Loss; physical copies are sold out.

Hell interview

“Nuumen” is, according to you, a song about crippling depression and anxiety. What about those topics did you strive to convey on the song?
Find a way to use mental illness to your advantage if you’ve decided that It won’t go away.When you wrote “Nuumen,” was it always intended to be for a split with Primitive Man?
Yes, I like Primitive Man and the guys behind the project. I approached them with the idea of doing a split while I was in the starting stages of writing “Nuumen.”
Hell is just you, M.S.W. What does your typical writing process look like? 
I sit down, riff around, pick out riffs that stick, mic the amp and record guitars to a metronome. Then I wait a few months to mic and record the drums. Bass is recorded after the drums, always. Vocals, mixing, effects, other guitars  and instruments are last. That process may or may not take months as well.
Is “Nuumen” an indicator of where Hell is headed sonically for future releases? 
No, not necessarily. The only reason I record Hell tracks anymore is because I have something I need to get out. This is what the project was created for, essentially. I’m currently wrapping up another 19-minute track that is far from the “Nuumen” feel but is “sonically” similar. This 19-minute track along with a handful of new (MSW) Cloud tracks is scheduled to be released this year.

Primitive Man interview

When Caustic was nearing release, you said that you were opening up about more personal topics in the lyrics. Is that a practice you continued when writing the songs for your split with Hell?
Yes and no.  One song is about the earth dying.  The other song is about still finding time for revenge in the face of societal collapse.
What was the writing process for these two songs—”Oily Tears” and “Pitiful & Loathsome” —like? Since Primitive Man is on the road so often, were these songs written on tour?
We had a couple of brief breaks in between touring and wrote them during those times.
At what point was it decided that Primitive Man and Hell would release a split together? Did you write these songs with the knowledge that Hell would be on the other side?
We spoke about it for the first time I think after playing this festival called 71Grind in Colorado Springs, CO in late 2017, if memory serves me correctly.   These songs were written with the knowledge that HELL would be on the other side.
Why did you choose to collaborate on a split with Hell? What about their music do you feel makes them fit so well with Primitive Man?
Because MSW’s music is insanely good. And though I feel like we are sonically different in a lot of ways, the approach lives inside of a similar spirit.
Ethan, you designed the artwork for the split as well. Was there a message or idea you wanted to convey beyond a generally dark vibe?
The idea behind that image is that everything is hell. We are in Hell. Right now. And it was actually created before the split even came about, and was supposed to be the cover for the next PM full length, but no one liked the first image I made so we used this instead due to time constraints.
Photo: Alvino Salcedo