Hivelords/Primitive Man/Opium Lord at Kung Fu Necktie

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Last Friday Hivelords held a record release show for their sophomore full length Tapered Limbs of a Human Star, which is officially out on August 4th via Anthropic Records. Prior to the show I had been unaware that the group had another album ready to drop this year, so a performance to celebrate its impending release seemed like the perfect way to familiarize myself. It was also the closest that the Primitive Man/Opium Lord tour was coming to my area (which overlapped with this show), and since Opium Lord’s debut had caught my attention a few weeks earlier I decided to make the 3 hour trip up in rush hour traffic for a night of exceptional heavy music.

This Is Hardcore Fest was taking place this same weekend in Philly and there was an after show at the venue right after this ended, so the Hivelords record release was on a more constrained timeframe and started a bit earlier than I’m used to. Even though Opium Lord took the stage promptly at 8:10 I just managed to make it in time, and was excited to see what they had to offer live. The British sludge/doom band released their full length The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth via Candlelight earlier in the year and it had a balance of darker, grimier melodies and abrasive riffing that was quite appealing. This was my first time at Kung Fu Necktie, and I noticed that since their stage is a bit on the small side singer Nathan Coyle had chosen to position himself on the floor right at the edge of the crowd. Having this kind of close proximity to bands as they play has become my preference thanks to the amount of time I’ve spent at Sidebar back in Baltimore, and it worked well for Opium Lord as Coyle was able to move about the crowd while screaming his lungs out. The band has been together for the better part of three years and it’s clear from their live performance that they’ve had time to hone their craft, as it was a tight set that took the aggressive riffs and haunting melodies from the record and amplified them to room filling volumes. It was fairly short but the crowd that had gathered seemed impressed by the crunchier guitar riffs and heavy bass grooves, and one of my favorite moments came at the end when Coyle decided to forego the mic entirely and scream an entire song without any amplification. Opium Lord’s set left me wanting more and I think they’re definitely capable of winning any fan of sludge over with their live performance so hopefully it won’t be long before they return to the states.

Primitive Man was up next, and they were a band I had seen for the first time about a month ago in Baltimore. Their set was so overwhelmingly heavy that it made a strong impression and I said in my previous review that I’d try to catch them any time they came around so heading up to Philly to see them again was a no brainer. Since it hadn’t been that long since the last performance the set was fairly familiar, but that didn’t make it have any less impact. On record and in person the guitar/bass combination hits hard, with the sheer weight coming out even more when it’s happening right in front of you. Previously I found that a lot of my attention shifted over to vocalist/guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy as his riffs seemed to hover over the room and his growls are some of the fullest I’ve heard from this genre in quite some time. But on this particular evening I found myself increasingly paying attention to what drummer Isidro Soto was doing throughout each of the songs. The level of intensity that he brings to his playing is admirable, as during some of the heaviest sections he was practically jumping up and coming down to hit the drums with full force. Primitive Man’s material is as bleak and unrelenting as it gets, and it’s the type where you can completely soak in the negative vibes and energy for the entire set. Another thing I noticed this time around was the chemistry that the three members have, as they complement each other perfectly and there isn’t one element to the music that overwhelms the other. It also helps that these guys have riffs that are well balanced between slower, sprawling tempos and faster assaults that break things up, as there’s a bit more substance to their sludge/doom than is sometimes typical for the style. My second time seeing this group was just as memorable as the first, and they seem like one of those acts that can deliver a great set no matter when or where you’re able to see them.

I had only seen Hivelords once before and their singer hadn’t been able to make it out for that particular tour. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen a band play with a guest singer for an entire set, but Ajax Stormwood definitely did the material justice. Still, I was excited to have the chance to see Hivelords with their regular lineup and also get an idea of what the new record had to offer. Previously their songs blended elements of traditional black metal with slower doom sections and a psychedelic, unsettling atmosphere. From their set it was clear that these elements have been expanded upon even further on Tapered Limbs of a Human Star, as the songs are even longer and there are more twists and turns than before. The instrumentation had plenty of all-out blasting that instantly grabbed your attention with that familiar icy coldness, but there were more transitions over to mid-tempo and slower sections that had more of a ritualistic feel. Kevin North’s started utilizing an even wider range of vocal styles as well, and not only does he still have the harsh shrieks that are drenched in reverb and distortion but there are a lot of clean ranges added into the mix. This is what struck me the most about the performance, as the cleaner tones hovered over the room with a haunting feel to them, and it’s clearly increased the atmosphere the band is able to create with their music. Though there were some moments during the set where North started to get slightly drowned out by the sheer wall of sound coming from the instrumentals, his performance remained a highlight of the evening and there were several moments where it looked like he had the mic in his mouth and was letting it completely reverberate. I was entranced from beginning to end and clearly am going to have to spend some in-depth time with the record in the coming weeks. Hivelords will be touring around the country fairly soon, so there will be plenty of opportunities to catch them and I’d highly recommend it if you have a taste for sprawling, unsettling black metal.



Primitive Man-
Opium Lord-
Anthropic Records-
Relapse Records-
Candlelight Records-

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