Primus - The Desaturating Seven album review

Beware prog goblins! Les Claypool’s crew excel on another children’s story

Primus - The Desaturating Seven album artwork

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Not content with blowing minds to twinkling, nostalgic smithereens with 2014’s Primus & The Chocolate Factory, Les Claypool and his resolutely wonky trio have based their ninth full‑length album on author Ul De Rico’s gently bizarre 1978 children’s book The Rainbow Goblins. You may find yourself rushing to find a plot synopsis, but while the source material is a perfect fit for Claypool’s perverse conceptual world, it’s the music on The Desaturating Seven that provides the greatest revelations.

Within their first set of new material since 2011’s Green Naugahyde, Primus have subtly reinvented their own sound, skilfully drawing from past glories while boldly stretching out in a way that showcases the chemistry between Claypool, guitarist Larry Lalonde and drummer Tim ‘Herb’ Alexander. Second track The Seven is a case in point. With its nods to Discipline‑era King Crimson and its woozy, darkly psychedelic unfolding, it’s a more pointedly and joyously prog version of what Primus have been doing for three decades.

The Trek is similarly rich in ideas and immaculately loose‑limbed in delivery, with every subtle change in rhythmic emphasis and each spine‑tingling atmospheric detour making perfect sense, all blended seamlessly and blessed with vibrant analogue tones.

It’s not hard to imagine the eye‑melting stage show that will, perhaps inevitably, accompany future performances of this album. Primus have always been highly focused when it comes to their visual identity: The Desaturating Seven flows like a movie, albeit a really fucking weird one. Even a shorter, more succinct chapter like the rattling, punchy The Scheme has that narrative thrust and depth of imagination driving it forwards.

Most startling of all is The Dream, one of the most thrillingly deranged things this band have ever committed to tape. It starts with two minutes of ululating glitch wrongness before Claypool’s voice arrives, disembodied and watery, underpinned by Alexander’s robust thumps and Lalonde’s delay‑drenched squeaks and scratches. It’s truly psychedelic – something Primus have been great at doing for years, even though they’re rarely acknowledged for it – and it generates a thick, choking sense of unease that’s only partly punctured by the skittering, gnarly rush of the song’s climax.

Most intricate of the lot is The Storm, eight minutes of grotesque but oddly euphoric ebb and flow that comes across as a distant, demented cousin of Southbound Pachyderm (from 1995’s Tales From The Punchbowl) but with added rainbows, goblins and flowers. As with everything else here, the main lesson to be learned is that there’s still only one Primus.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.