Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Record label: Southern Lord Records
Genre(s): Experimental, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Rock
Earth-song has always existed in geological time. With their epochal debut, Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version, in 1993 they pretty much invented an entire sub-genre, variously known as drone metal, drone doom, or power ambient, although labels such as these exist only to simplify and reduce. With their subsequent two albums, Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (1995) and Pentastar: In the Style of Demons (1996) they explored the relationship between traditional metal, with its reliance on structure and the riff, and avant-garde noise, where duration, drone and texture take precedence.
After “Father Midnight” and “Hell’s Winter,” the deeper magic and Aslan’s breath — a cough of hope in a fatalist wheeze. There is something dreadful about the beauty of this dawn, the inevitability of its cycle suggesting the daunting physicality of Ted Hughes’ Iron Man on the march, as if dread were, in fact, a condition of the beautiful, whose details can only be examined or demonstrated in the shade of anxiety’s big pink parasol. Fear circumscribes the world, drawing the earth towards it, submitting its sign to the siphon squeeze of the pars totalis.
Recorded during the same session as last year's sublime Angels of Darkness I, the followup sees Dylan Carlson's Earth take their panoramic instrumentals, heavy on improvisation this time, into uncharted territories. Releasing twin albums a year apart might seem like excessive prevarication, but in the context of Earth's lugubrious pace, that's practically a simultaneous release. As with so much of Carlson's work, these five songs suggest a mournful last dance in the decrepit roadhouse of some faded midwest mining town.
In a previous review, I argued that it was near impossible to ‘sell’ Earth to anyone who didn’t already ‘get’ Earth. This feels both especially true at present, and clearly a more widely applicable paradigm for music journalism as a whole: the individual has all the resources at his or her fingertips. Music writers have exhausted their thesauri looking for new and arcane synonyms, swarmed existing information available searching for some formerly unpublished morsel with which to shine the light on material, only to find that their readership doesn’t really care.
Dylan Carlson, founder of influential drone outfit Earth, is an artist who knows all about innovation. Earth’s droning metallic ‘93 opus Earth 2 was responsible for the creation of an entire genre of exceptionally heavy minimalism, and its legacy looms large in the works of such bands as Sunn O))), Nadja, Jesu, Barn Owl and Boris, along with a raft of other down-tempo post-metal and dark ambient artists. It would be impossible to overemphasize Carlson’s pivotal role in establishing the essential elements in the world of reverb-soaked, downtuned doom-laden drone.
The second volume in Earth's Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light series is an extension of its predecessor's experiments, though it is far more fluid and improvisatory. Where the sounds on Vol. 1 opened up with the sonorous arid soundscapes of The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull -- which were already a marked departure from the early feedback-drenched power drone of Earth's earliest incarnation -- so too does this set, recorded during the same two sessions as its immediate predecessor, showcasing an even more experimental side to the band not heard since Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method from 2005.
Aside from founder Dylan Carlson, drummer Adrienne Davies is the only member of Earth to play on each of the four studio albums the drone-metal syndicate has made since re-forming seven years ago as an elegant blues band. On last year's Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1, she added an immediate, omnipresent grace. She swung softly during opener "Old Black", commanding the music's slow shifts with a righteous thump.
EarthAngels of Darkness, Demons of Light II[Southern Lord; 2012]By Liam Demamiel; February 17, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThe majority of Earth album reviews follow a similar formula. The opening paragraph recounts the past of Earth leader Dylan Carlson, usually mentioning the words “Cobain,” “shotgun,” “heroin,” and “rehab. ” Next follows a summation of the band’s career and references to the brilliance and legacy of “Earth 2.
Each release from the revived drone institution Earth finds ringleader Dylan Carlson exploring every possible interpretation of the word "heavy." During Earth's first incarnation, the adjective was provided by the sheer volume and distortion of the proceedings. When Earth re-emerged in 2005 with Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method, the focus turned towards atmosphere, the serrated buzz and hum of earlier work replaced by steely Western twang and arrangements that achingly heaved from section to section. As its title indicates, this album is the second part of a larger work, but instead of merely acting as a continuation of its predecessor, it represents a break in theme.
In an interview last year, Earth‘s driving force, Dylan Carlson, told Consequence of Sound that the second volume of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light would be more of a “just roll tape and play” than the carefully-composed first volume. Recorded in a the same two-week stretch as last year’s record, II is indeed a looser, more relaxed trod through Earth’s murky, cavernous instrumental depths. This jammy, exploratory vibe is best represented in the 18-minute “Waltz (A Multiplicity of Doors)”, which was regularly worked into setlists during the band’s recent tour.
A sparsely-drawn exercise in restraint, meditation and composure. Alex Deller 2012 Considering Earth 2.0 have existed for longer than the 90s incarnation that altered the face of heavy music it’s odd that Dylan Carlson is still spoken of as if he’s competing with Boris in terms of volume or density. Truth be told, anyone still banging on about Earth in terms of "crushing drone" or heavy metal is rather missing the point, and this latest foray serves as a perfect illustration as it continues down a dusty path that’s less about Sunn amps and smashed guitars than the bleak, stark Americas envisioned by Cormac McCarthy or Daniel Woodrell.
Dylan Carlson’s Earth have been around for so long now - and so frequently imitated - that it can be hard to recall just how radical they sounded when Earth 2 came out in 1993. I was only 11 at the time, but I still remember the impact it had when I discovered it years later, having already ingested much of its legacy. No matter that I already worshipped at the altar of SUNN O))), Boris and Orthodox, Earth 2 remained a revelation: dense, hypnotic and heavy as a ton concrete, even though it was bereft of drums.