The Rickety Old Shack

Primer 55 — (The) New Release

album cover

The story of Primer 55 is a fairly brief one. Formed in 1997, the band dropped their first and only EP, As Seen On TV, in 1999. The band got signed and re-released said EP, with both new and reworked material as Introduction To Mayhem (review) a year later. Primer 55 toured extensively, garnering attention as openers for the bigger names in the nu metal scene — the likes of Static-X, Machine Head and Slipknot among others — as well making appearances on the Ozzfest tour. Between the band's debut and its follow-up, multiple drummers and bassists had come and gone, and (The) New Release ended up being a significant departure from their previous work.

The album was preceded by "This Life," the only single released off the record. The track eschews the rap metal style of Introduction To Mayhem completely, and is actually a solid alt-rock tune. There are a few moments on (The) New Release where vocalist Jason "J-Sin" Luttrell's cadence could almost be considered a rap, but for the most part he sticks to his distinct screams and a combination of clean vocal tones of varying quality. (The) New Release is a much more varied record than its predecessor, although a not all of Primer 55's experiments pay off here. There are moments, such as on the extremely sleazy cuts "Texas" and "Lou Evil" where Luttrell sounds like he's channeling Sublime and big band music, albeit with mixed success.

As a sophomore release, (The) New Release is a very flawed effort, but not without some merit and quirky charms. The material on this album is a mix of aggressive alt-rock, metal and even some ska, funk and harsher punk influences. The band manages to evolve its sound, while still retaining their identity — in large part because of Luttrell's unique vocal presence. His screams are amelodic, and his clean vocals are passable, at best, but they lend a primal sincerity to the material all the same. While far from epic prose, the record's more angsty lyrics — such as the frustrated lament on the grind of adulthood in "Tricycle" — seem to come from a geniune place of pain. Regardless of your view on such an aspiration, Primer 55 seemed to genuinely want to make this music — (The) New Release is still far too abrasive compared to the mainstream of its era.

Production wise, this (The) New Release is a big step forward. The guitars are thick and crunchy, the drums have a great pop to them and the bass gets ample room in the mix, and is featured prominently in each track — most notably on "Hesitation." The song writing on this record is significantly improved over Introduction To Mayhem, although the material does suffer from a bit of stagnation which is further highlighted by Luttrell's vocal limitations at times. All of the choruses are shouted, and while the verses are a mix of more screams and some clean vocals. On tracks like "This Life," "Pills," "Lessons" and "No Sleep" this works pretty well. At other times, it feels like the concept was sound but the band just couldn't execute well enough.

When this record first came out, I was really impressed with it. I was fine with the band's change of direction, although I was initially anticipating whatever you'd consider "a really epic new rap metal record" would consist of in 2001. My initial surprise when I heard "This Life" for the first time was only compounded when I heard the whole album. Over time, the material on (The) New Release has aged better than Introduction To Mayhem, although the latter feels like a more coherent vision even if the material was much more simplistic. This is a strange record; in a lot of respects it feels like a different band entirely when the vocals aren't present. I can't honestly recommend this to anyone except those with an interest in early aughts obscurities and / or anyone curious enough to plot the progression of nu metal away from rap and closer to alt-rock.

I still like (The) New Release, and I don't think another record in the vein of Introduction To Mayhem would have been viable either. This is a peculiar release; a greasy, sleazy offering from a band that never quite hit their stride. Primer 55 are anything but essential listening, but their two full-length albums are an excellent snapshot of what happened to rap metal as it fell out of the mainstream in the early aughts. And, hey, "This Life" is still a pretty banging tune even to this day.

Summary

What would end up being the final Primer 55 studio album, (The) New Release was the second full-length from the group. A stark depature from the firmly rap metal stylings of their debut, this record sees the band expanding their sound with mixed results. A valiant effort from a band that dealt with line-up issues and internal strife for the entirety of its existence, although far from a timeless classic of any sort. This record is flawed but competent experiment in shifting the band into a hybrid alt-metal project. There are hits and misses, but the album has some fun moments nonetheless; I will always wonder what a third record would have sounded like, had the band been able to stick together. Even missing the mark somewhat, Primer 55 showed the spark of potential with their style changeup.

Album Information

Release date: August 14th, 2001
Record label: Island / Def Jam Records

Jason "J-Sin" Luttrell — vocals
Bobby Burns — guitar, bass, backing vocals, mandocello, programming
Josh Stainer — drums
Preston Nash — drums
Sam Albright — saxophone
Eddie Wohl — piano, programming, production, Rhodes piano

Track Listing

  1. Time... Trapped Under A Rock
  2. This Life
  3. Growing
  4. Texas
  5. Tricycle
  6. Pills
  7. Lessons
  8. (502)
  9. Lou Evil
  10. Hesitation
  11. No Sleep
  12. My Girl
  13. Ricochet
  14. All In The Family

—by Derek

Published: August 21st, 2019.