Primitive Man and Bell Witch @ Kung Fu Necktie (11/07/17)

by Peter Ferris


This past Tuesday, November 7, Kung Fu Necktie hosted two of the most extreme bands in doom metal today: Primitive Man and Bell Witch. Though these bands both fall under the same broad genre classification, their performances could not have been more different.

In a recent interview with Noisey, vocalist and guitarist Ethan McCarthy stated that with Primitive Man’s new record, he wanted to “convey true horror.” There is perhaps no better way to describe their live performance as well. For roughly forty minutes, they played some of the most punishing tracks off Caustic, easily one of the year’s heaviest recordings. Combining elements of doom, sludge, and noise into a package of pure sonic brutality, Primitive Man’s music explores pain and suffering like few bands ever have. Some of the songs they played, like “Victim”, featured chugging, repetitive riffs that pummel nearby eardrums to oblivion. Others, like the lengthy “Commerce”, forced listeners to submit to torturous segments of harsh, droning feedback, punctuated by blasts of percussion. And while the visual aspect of bar shows is usually defined by more than a wooden stage and lonely beer cans, Primitive Man’s themes of horror, shock, and nihilism translated well to their onstage presence. No smiles, just blank stares. And every time McCarthy was at the mic, he kept his eyes wide open. He never blinked. Not even once.


Suffice to say, Primitive Man’s performance was not for the faint of heart. It was demanding, both sonically and physically (I could feel the floor shaking below me throughout their set). Nevertheless, whether or not you enjoy heavy music, it’s impossible to deny that Primitive Man’s live set is a totally unique musical experience. My ears may never fully recover.

Headlining the evening’s show was funeral doom duo Bell Witch. Touring on their new album, Mirror Reaper, the group has garnered critical acclaim for their incredibly slow, atmospheric ruminations on death. Mirror Reaper is a notable entry in their discography as their first record following the tragic passing of their former drummer, Adrian Guerra. It’s also one single, 83-minute-long song.

Unsurprisingly, their entire set was dedicated to a performance of the first portion of the new album. Bassist Dylan Desmond’s two-handed technique left the audience stunned as he played the song’s gloomy melody over powerful, low-end chords. Both Desmond and drummer Jesse Shreibman provided vocals, clean and growled. Although the vocals were virtually inaudible at the front of the stage, there was clearly lots of emotion poured into their singing and playing. If anything, their set was much more emotionally poignant than technically impressive. 0The agonizingly slow pace of “Mirror Reaper” only emphasized this further, as the compositions dreary tones rang out for what seemed like an eternity and a half. And during the solo bass passages, Shreibman conveyed the feeling of the song better than anyone else: head hidden, bent down over his kit in despair.

Death is terrifying. Bell Witch seems to understand this better than most bands. But our own lives can be terrifying too, and Primitive Man was there to remind audiences of this as well. It’s difficult to say whether or not either band’s performances were “enjoyable”, much less “good” or “great” or what have you, but they both provided experiences that few other bands could replicate. If either of them sound appealing to you, be sure to check them on the remainder of their tour.

Chris DeFlitch