Primer 55 — Introduction To Mayhem
When I initially reviewed this album, in early August of 2001, I was efusive in my praise for Primer 55 and their take on the rap metal genre. I wrote a glowing review of Introduction To Mayhem, specifically noting that this project was not only quality rap metal but also superior to Limp Bizkit — truly the answer to a problem nobody had. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this record when it dropped and my relationship with it, and Primer 55, has endured and evolved over the course of the past 18 years.
I forget exactly how I discovered Primer 55, although I'm almost positive it was in the liner notes that came with a Static-X album. I remember hearing "Loose" and immediately being hooked by the aggression and catchiness of the track; I've always been an unabashed fan of Limp Bizkit and their stupid-fun stylings, so Primer 55's more aggro take on the rap metal combination hit a sweet spot in my musical lizard brain. Vocalist J-Sin's exceedingly abrasive vocals really resonated with me, much like Fred Durst on the bulk of 3 Dollar Bill Y'All — their unique tones and palpable rage defined the material they appeared on.
What I was unaware of at the time was that Introduction To Mayhem was actually the band's debut EP, As Seen On TV, re-engineered and packaged with new tracks. The record includes a number of new cuts — both instrumental segues and full songs — but also omits a few tracks which were later released as a compilation titled The Big Fuck You (review). Introduction To Mayhem still sounds like a cohesive album that was recorded all at the same time. The various segues, like "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Chaos," "Revolution," "Hey Bubba" and "Funhouse," evoke comparisons to how Limp Bizkit mixed their second record, Significant Other, only the fillers are their own tracks here, rather than stapled on to the end of each song. Also, Incubus DJ Chris Kilmore added some scratching to the album, though he remains uncredited.
Like all rap metal bands, Primer 55 fuse an extremely simplistic take on both artforms with rudimentary metal riffs and tones are combined with rudimentary rapping, to build songs that are as catchy as they are incredibly primitive and stupid. Part of the draw, for me, is the primal nature of Jason Luttrell's vocals. His strained, almost atonal screams and fairly basic lyrics conveyed a passion that was easy to dismiss as contrived in the nu metal era. Whether you see any value in this sort of music notwithstanding, Introduction To Mayhem feels like a sincere effort from a band truly invested in what they were creating. Not all the material even features rapping, as many tracks feature almost exclusively harsh vocals or the clean passages are, at best, simple rhyming couplets which happen to be spoken.
In 2019, the material on this record definitely shows its age — I could have told you that would be the case, even as far back as when I ordered my physical copy from CD Warehouse. This record is a time capsule of sorts, giving the listener a good idea as to what the fringes of music sounded like back at the turn of the millennium. Primer 55 were signed very quickly, on the back of a very rough EP released in the final years of the traditional music industry model. They were signed as an attempt to cash in on the success of Limp Bizkit, who were selling millions of records at their peak.
My personal relationship towards the band has undergone a lot of change; I've gone from unequivocally enjoying their albums to a mid-twenties feeling of regret — for liking things that might undermine my "underground cred" or whatever — to acceptance and understanding of why I like what I like. Introduction To Mayhem is far from a perfect record, but it's possessed of a certain charm. Tracks like "Dose" and "Tripinthehead" — with their primal narrative, ear-catching riffs and chunky bass — still hit the mark with me. The mixture of basic guitar chords with hip-hop drum samples and thick basslines still works more often than not. If one were to divide the band and their contemporaries into tiers, I'd put Primer 55 on the second level but with an honourable mention.
At the time I discovered Primer 55, I'd already begun delving deeper into the more extreme genres. What impressed me most about Primer 55 at the time was just how aggro their sound was; you'd get some catchy beats and chunky riffs, but the bulk of the record is harsh vocals and angry guitars. Even to this day, I maintain that they were underrated as a band, even if the majority of the metal community had no tolerance for groups like Primer 55. Tracks like "Supa Freak Love," a boastful brag about bedding promiscuous women and "G's," a laughable tough guy anthem, seem quaint so long after the fact but I still find them fun. "Set It Off," which features a mediocre appearance from (hed)p.e.'s Jared Gomes, is almost a parody of of the genre — it's amusing for mostly the wrong reasons.
I think Introduction To Mayhem will always be a measuring stick for me, to see how far away from my 18 year-old self I am as a music listener. At 35 years old, I have a massive collection of albums to listen to, yet I still find myself coming back to this record for a multitude of reasons. I don't know how to quantify that for listeners who aren't me, but I will argue the relevance of this record — in the context of late-90s and early-aughts music trends if nothing else — until my dying days. There's a certain rugged charm to this album, despite its imperfections. The production and mixing is a lot more nuanced than you'd expect, and there are even some layered guitar leads including a solo in "Hate."
Primer 55 is a great example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The group went through numerous line-up changes, internal drama and disbandings, but the core of the project was always Jason Luttrell's voice and Bobby Burns' riffs. While far from perfect, and operating in a confining, heavily outmoded niche, Introduction To Mayhem perfectly encapsulates the era it comes from.
As the late-90s and early 2000s get further and further away in the rear-view mirror of history, Primer 55's major label debut, Introduction To Mayhem ages fairly well in the context of rap metal records. If you didn't like this sort of music "back in the day," it's highly unlikely this record will change your mind. This is a primtive album on every level, but also an entertaining one — even if only as a throwback to a vastly different time. This is not the sort of album to change anyone's mind about rap metal, you are either going to like this album or despise it.
Release date: January 25th, 2000
Record label: Island / Def Jam Records
Jason "J-Sin" Luttrell — vocals
Bobby Burns — guitar, bass, vocals
Jr. — bass
Josh McLane — drums
Jared Gomes — vocals (track 9)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes
- Supa Freak Love
- Set It Off
- Hey Bubba
- Introduction To Mayhem
- The Big Fuck You
Published: August 7th, 2019.