The story behind The Planet Of The Apes, a French novel by Pierre Boulle, was deemed great enough to warrant a movie of its own. That birthed a 70s franchise which then kicked off a comic book series, a TV series and went on to inspire other movie-makers, novelists and Simpsons scriptwriters (“You finally made a monkey out of me!”). Then came a 2001 reboot of the original movie, followed just 10 years later by a reboot of the franchise. It seems fair to suggest that Boulle created a bit of a monster.
Of course it has also inspired musicians (Devin, I’m looking at you) and digging through The Room Colored Charlatan’s new concept album Primitives you’d believe you were listening to the same story of ape-like creatures set on some far off planet. In fact, initially, the intuitive polyrhythms, riffing, prog-addled soundscapes and lyrics that tell of “an earthly biosphere created for a species of consumption” will have you picturing The Contortionist’s Exoplanet. Seriously, if ever that world was to be populated, you could imagine that Primitives might just be describing their failing symbiotic relationship.
Of course, the revelation will hit you at some point, as it does in Boulle’s great novel, and like the ruined Statue of Liberty rising from the sands, you’ll realise this damning tale with such imaginative wordplay is about your own home planet. Of course, Primitives refers to the past and the present more than it does the future. It is describing the inexorable rise of mankind and its position as the dominant, planet-destroying beast we are today.
No matter where you look here, these Indiana-based purveyors of attack-and-release tech metal consistently warrant comparison with bands like Veil of Maya, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless and the afore-mentioned Contortionist. Throughout they suck you in with vast, sprawling passages of ambience before gobbing you out headfirst into scrambling walls of antagonistic death vocal and hammering strings.
From the opening hit of “Instinct”, far more than just an obligatory introductory piece, the album grips you. The track yawns into life before building into a steadily thumping, abrasive monster. Layered to the gills, you’ll pick up a warbling effected by fast string-tapping, some eerily cosmic keys, a strong Steve Vai-esque axe tone evoking the emphatic styling of 80’s prog rock, bruising drum patterns and the brutal death growls of Jared Bush. It all feeds, through the curiously detached instrumental punch of “Native Habitat” into the scrambling, scattergun shape-shifting of “Apex Predator”.
The title-track struggles to find a natural cadence but heading into the second half of the album, they really get stuck into the songs. Here the songwriting is much improved with far-less opaque structuring and some sweet vocal hooks. “Questions of Origin” settles things down immediately, inciting a deep bouncing rhythm into which they tip scrambling tech, some nifty electro touches and a backing vocal that repeats something very reminiscent of Suicide Silence legend Mitch Lucker’s scathing “Wake Up” line.
“Survivalist Notion” could really be a monster of a track for them with a butch groove, an inspirational section of Gojira-esque grumbling and some curveball boy-girl harmonics. It all comes welded to a keen industrial edge. Moving on there’s plenty of added crunch and some stomach-dropping bass drops popping up throughout “The Atlas Effect” to balance out the dream-like backdrops (themselves a nod to Uneven Structure’s Februus) and leaping out of bonus track “Nexus Point” the second vocal channels the achingly-beautiful vocal of Dan “Skyharbor” Tompkins. This, here, is music for fantasists.
All told, there is something of an overdose of rhythmic dropouts and they don’t consistently nail the balance between rough and smooth. The detrimental knock-on effect is to the natural flow of the album. However, this is mere nitpicking when you consider the bustling enthusiasm of it all, the strong production levels and the players’ immense skill. Primitives is a marriage of originality and inspiration and TRCC have gifted us an album loaded with passion. As a consequence, the end result is bursting with colours, strong and rich enough to sell this incriminating account of woe to your mind’s eye. I believe an anguished cry of “Maniacs! You finally blew it all up. God damn you all to hell!” is in order.
(8/10 John Skibeat)