Earth specialize in dreary forays into the subtly supernatural that, in the hands of a lesser band, would be laughable, but if you use these records to soundtrack the news, it’s easy to believe in demons. While it’s hard to try and write an engaging review about 11-minute epics that stir up
black landscapes in the mind’s eye, these are universally apt sounds for February’s trees in stasis, naked and stretching their gnarled and knotted limbs toward the blotted-out sun. Judging by recent promotional shots of the band, Dylan Carlson is increasingly taking on the appearance of some world-weary, handlebar mustachioed Midwestern prospector — lines furrowing his once Elfin face.
Following some fairly ominous liver trouble attributed to his `previous lifestyle,’ Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light was conceived as a brace of LPs released in the same year as one another, with Carlson determined to make them good enough to provide fitting fanfare for his transmigration in the event that 2011 was his swan song on this mortal coil. His hearty constitution prevailed, and Southern Lord‘s schedule obstructed, but II still managed to come out less than 12 months after the appearance of its sibling.
Doom is a little slower creeping than previously as Earth drift further from the grinding metallic drone that made their reputation, replaced by more tempered and delicate illustrations via a more austere palette. One has to wonder if the Nirvana connection hasn’t become such an unavoidable albatross that Carlson has sought to embrace it, given the addition of Cello to Earth’s atmosphere, once again supplied by Lori Goldston, who famously lent Nirvana’s Unplugged In New York its funerary flavor.
A touch more improvised than its predecessor, with the majority of its songs being written in a two-week period prior to recording, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II still manages to come out feeling fully formed, despite lacking a little of the scope of its predecessor, clocking in at three quarters of the former’s hour-long running time. The Devil however, is in the details, and the sprawl of each of its tracks, whether three and a half minutes, or 13, create their own unique sense of space. “Sigil of Brass” steadily sets the scene with shining, but trepidatious guitar steps, yawning cello and cymbal shivers, while “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine,” with its insistent guitar chug, paints a slow, wilderness-beset Highway into the album’s nightmarish heart — the album’s longest song, “Waltz (A Multiplicity of Doors)” — a Ghost Town at dusk negotiating with meandering shadows. “The Corascene Dog” limps under the weight of its forebear’s cello woe into the organ-inflected “The Rakehell,” which shifts from foot to foot like a drunk considering blood in a red Neon-reflecting puddle in the bar parking lot.
Though recent releases have allegedly seen Carlson looking back at folk music of `the Old World’ such as Pentangle and Fairport Convention to inspire his Soundtracks-to-make-movies-by, these panoramas are still new and undeniably American — hauntingly ancient and as ageless as the land itself.
Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O.
Neil Young – Dead Man (OST)
Stream: Earth – “The Rakehell”