Seven songs rarely add up to a full-length album, unless those seven songs are insanely long, winding opuses or epics. It works for prog-rock, of course, and it also works for black metal’s more progressive ranks. But Brooklyn’s Primitive Weapons, a metal band with a kickass post-hardcore streak (or a metallic post-hardcore band, if you prefer), doesn’t have a song in their arsenal that reaches over the four-and-a-half minute line. So their debut for Prosthetic Records, The Shadow Gallery, seems a little brief, at 25 minutes, which would be a problem if the five-piece outfit didn’t cram every square inch of this menacing platter with as many pure thrills, riffs and brutal rhythms as they possibly could.
With an album cover depicting an out-of-focus nun, which at first kind of looks like an evil beast’s horns, Primitive Weapons’ The Shadow Gallery is all about blurring lines, be they those of presentation, genre or otherwise. The album is heavy – damn heavy. But to leave it at ‘metal’ seems reductive, or at the very least, only a part of the band’s complex, but by no means subtle blend. Their melodic, yet sludgy sound pulls heavily from ’90s noise rock a la Unsane or The Jesus Lizard, but a more modern contemporary is Kylesa, whose low-end pummel is undercut with a similarly hook-laden streak. And much like that band’s last two (and best) albums, The Shadow Gallery bolsters every bone crunching rager with a catchiness that’s at once familiar and refreshing.
The most righteously invigorating highlights on The Shadow Gallery just happen to be its first two tracks, which, again, would be a problem, if the remaining five didn’t come awfully close to those peaks. With a rapid explosion of drum breaks, opener “Good Hunting” erupts into a blistering groove metal powerhouse, with traces of Helmet and Quicksand peeking through each pick harmonic and throat-scraping shout. “Quitters Anthem” is even catchier, its chorus loaded with an eerie melodic backing vocal and its bridge rife with gothic atmosphere. Though the band doesn’t sustain highs quite so lofty, their successes remain numerous, from the backfeeding singalong “The Death of Boredom,” to the pair of deliciously sludgy mid-tempo gems, “Big Chief” and “Oath.”
If there’s a complaint to be had with The Shadow Gallery, it’s that Primitive Weapons’ vicious metallic blend is so satisfying, seven songs really isn’t enough. With a debut this good, I’m willing to forgive this minor shortcoming, but when the time comes for another round, I say make it a double.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.