Two of the heaviest sludge bands to rocket up into Relapse Records‘ crypt as of late offer a full-lengths worth of what appears to be stuff that was too brutal for their respective 2017 full-lengths. Although I have become increasingly harsh in my criticisms of modern sludge metal’s too-often transformative stylistic trendiness, there are still countless bands that hit their mark with me consistently and Unearthly Trance is a force that can do no wrong. Primitive Man represent only callous masochism and painful death; I still have some lingering post-traumatic sludge disorder after reviewing ‘Caustic’ last year. While I love this pairing and these more obvious B-sides I can’t help but heavily favor the band that came in at #8 on my Top 50 for 2017.
There is no better sludge band touring in 2018 than Unearthly Trance, *checks notes* oh, ok besides Eyehategod. Their psychotropic blend of sludge and doom metal strengthened during their hiatus as Serpentine Path (now a separate, still active project). If death/doom was the next evolution beyond Unearthly Trance in 2011 then the return in 2015 brought a growling return to their purest sludge metal roots; ‘Stalking the Ghost’ was an immense beast of a record and it’s cutting floor dregs are no less valuable. If you crossed ‘Through Silver in Blood’ era Neurosis with the sullen throb of Godflesh‘s ‘Selfless’ the rhythms would crank out something akin to what Unearthly Trance put out in 2017. The songs on this split lean even further into a modern, buzzing Fudge Tunnel-like (‘The Complicated Futility of Ignorance’-era) syncopation slowed to doom’s pace.
Dark ambient and experimental noise are a part of each band’s gig on this split and Unearthly Trance‘s side is limited to the roughly six minute droning rant of “418” and some noise rock-esque dissonance driving “Reverse the Day”. Primitive Man on the other hand almost exclusively serve up screeching feedback dark ambient. Glimpses of their own brand of funereal sludge pops up amidst the ringing feedback of “Naked” but it doesn’t satisfy out of context of ‘Caustic’. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the build of “Love Under Will” but it only served as an ambient intro while I waited in anticipation for the other side of the record. It was a bit of a bummer because I like the sort of funeral death/doom approach to sludge that Primitive Man have managed, it is profusely extreme and anti-musical in a satisfying way, but I couldn’t bring myself to listen to anything but “Naked” beyond the first listen. So, slightly less value on Primitive Man ‘s side for me personally but if you have the patience and appropriate mindset for 10 minutes of ambiance on a 45 minute record, by all means. As such I’d recommend this split record to Unearthly Trance fans first and completionist Primitive Man folks second.
Head for higher ground. 3.5/5.0
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