It’s not often that you see a band pioneer a style, go on hiatus for nine years, and return with a completely revitalized sound, drawing little to no influence from their previous work. Then again, Earth have always been the exception to the rule. Spearheaded by Kurt Cobain’s former best friend, the band will forever go down in history as progenitors of drone and sonic innovators, but there’s more to the story. Since 2005’s HEX; Or Printing in the Infernal Method, Earth have sounded more like the heroin-pumped product of Ennio Morricone and Hank Williams Sr. than an experimental doom outfit with a fetish for low-end bassics (not to be punny or anything). In the world of music, they are the archetype for reinvention.
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1, Earth‘s third full-length since reincarnation, expands upon concepts of The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, albeit in an extremely subtle way. I have to admit that on first listen, I was rather put off by what sounded like the last album with a few notes moved around. However, this is not a record to take only by its skin. Repeated listens peel back layers and layers of sound that did not seem present before. The most obvious addition is the meandering cello of Lori Goldston, whom you may recognize as the cellist from Nirvana‘s MTV Unplugged in New York, which replaces the smooth key-work of Steve Moore. This has proven to be a wise move, as the strings add another dimension to an already deep sound.
Frontman Dylan Carlson has stated that the album is “more melodic and riff oriented than Bees,” but the riffs are clouded with textures and sounds more important than the riffs themselves. In the process, the record becomes bleaker, exposing a great feeling of sadness while still maintaining the bittersweet bliss of Bees. No song exemplifies this more than the title track, which glides along for 20 minutes, riding primarily on Karl Blau’s bass and Carlson’s twangy guitar.
Back in 1993 when Earth 2 hit the streets, nobody would have said that Earth would end up a psychedelic country outfit (let’s call it post-country), but look where we are now. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 may not be a landmark for the band, but it stands with its two predecessors as a strong statement for any artists who wish to redefine themselves. In this case, it took a suicide and drug addiction, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t another way.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for part 2, which is planned for an early 2012 release.
Try 1, 3, 4, 5
01. Old Black
02. Father Midnight
03. Descent to Zenith
04. Hell’s Winter
05. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1