"I exist in spite of everything that's going on. I create in spite of everything that's going on."

Ethan Lee McCarthy is the musical embodiment of sheer force of will. The Primitive Man frontman and sole force behind Many Blessings, McCarthy has spent his entire musical career creating unrelenting, abrasive art and, at this point, he makes no bones it.

In their near-decade as a band, Primitive Man have consistently pushed the boundary of heaviness in extreme music. On 2017’s Caustic, the trio created a sonic boulder that they rolled over the listener at will; underneath walls of feedback is a constant push-pull dynamic, moving the mass just before it becomes overwhelming or one-sided. Primitive Man replicated that feat on last year’s Immersion, delving further into the science of crafting heavy music while also cutting down on album runtime, delivering the same demoralising music in a more compact form.

Many Blessings represents the more experimental side of McCarthy’s musical output, using noise as the baseline for his releases, which vary from harsh and static-ridden (Trauma Artistry) to cinematic and slow burning (Emanation Body). There are similarities to Primitive Man beyond simply noise roots, namely the ebb and flow of the soundscapes, but the two projects stand independently.

Despite the 2021 edition of Roadburn being the least orthodox incarnation of the festival’s 22-year existence, the circumstances didn’t change anything for McCarthy in terms of songwriting or presentation.

“I’m always going to strive to try to do what I want, no matter what the circumstances,” says McCarthy, who has used the situation as an extended break from touring. “I know a lot of people felt demoralised and wanted to give up during this time, and I understand those feelings and I have felt those things, but you just can’t. Because it’s going to end some day and if I were to stop doing the things that I was doing, what a fucking waste of time.”

In the same way, the pandemic and its related quarantine haven’t made their way directly into the songs that Primitive Man and Many Blessings performed for Roadburn, McCarthy says.
“It’s just present there because that’s the time period that the songs and ideas were made,” he elaborates. “It’s the time period that these problems that I’m speaking on were happening, but it’s really a backseat topic to the rest.”

He acknowledges that performing at Roadburn is a prestigious invitation, but there is zero compromise in McCarthy’s vision. Primitive Man will again be one of the festival’s heaviest bands and they plan to deliver nothing less than expected: a set that is both deafeningly heavy and thoughtfully executed.

Whether it’s best defined as stubbornness or insanity, that uncompromising drive defines both acts debuting new music at Roadburn Redux.

“I exist in spite of everything that’s going on,” McCarthy reflects. “I create in spite of everything that’s going on.”

Vince Bellino