Earth - _Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I_
(Southern Lord, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (8.5 out of 10)
I remember seeing Earth with Pelican during a DC show a few years ago. Before Pelican played their set, they gave the customary gratitude to supporting bands. Pelican asked the crowd to applaud one more time for Earth as the masters of the slow jam. Most people did, but others had guilt written on their face as over half of the crowd left during their set. Few people get Earth anymore, and even less stay for entire concerts. I can understand the feeling, as Earth's new (and old) music could be a slight downer on a Friday night concert. To "get" drone is one thing, to understand and enjoy the progression of drone is something completely different.

The very fact that Earth has supported metal bands, is represented by Southern Lord and is being reviewed by (other) metal websites says something not only to their career but also the state of their current music. The first phase of Earth (1993-1996) involved minimalist songs obscured by heavy waves of distortion. In fact, Earth is widely heralded for a style now carried by Sunn O))), Khanate and Jesu. Beginning in 1997, and continuing just shy of a decade, Earth took an announced hiatus due to various problems revolving around front man Dylan Carson. Carson has been forthcoming about his personal problems as well as his relationship to departed Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Because history can be as kind as it is cruel, Earth's 2005 "comeback" album was a redefinition of their sound and a breakthrough with style suited to scorched deserts.

Earth's second phase (2005-present) has been marked by a cleaner sound with dark western undertones. Their first album _Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method_ was inspired by Cormack McCarthy's 1985 novel "Blood Meridian" and retained the droning sounds as atmospheric accents. _The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull_ saw the drone style wane further, making room for noisy frontier jams. Both albums have been landmarks in country minimalism and have pushed me to buy a ten gallon hat. The songs are slow walks through endless landscapes stripped of everything hopeful and dotted with the scorched remains of things once living. If "The Border Trilogy" ever needed a soundtrack, the current work of Earth would fit splendidly. _Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1_ (and its planned sequel) promises to be a new edition in Earth's ongoing transition from experimental metal to the advanced land of country doom.

_Angels of Darkness_ creates a third act (and possibly a finale) in Carson's fictional western film. This film is much like other westerns, except everyone is bad , the sun is black, and no one lives at the end. With every album from _Hex_, Earth strides further from the drone style which raised them. _Angels of Darkness_ offers doom in the sense that it possesses the same emotional characteristics with a cleaner sound. The distractions are gone, leaving you clear headed to appreciate the descending vultures. Each of the songs are monolithic, with the title track stretching past twenty minutes. While _Angels of Darkness_ is Earth's cleanest record, it is perhaps their most focused, as well as one of their darkest. The album emanates looming disaster while still retaining the haunting shadows which stretches from its boots.

Earth is a difficult band to sell to listeners with no sympathies for the avant-garde. This statement is not rooted in any sort of pretension, rather Earth's music takes a lot of patience. You also have to be sitting down to appreciate their albums -- and it can't be Friday night after a round at the bars. There is no denying the intensity and bleak destruction toured in _Angels of Darkness_. While Earth moves away from the abstract drone which defined their youth, their autumnal years are being spent in the long shade of death and ruin.


(article published 15/1/2011)

10/26/2005 T DePalma 9.5 Earth - Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method
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