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Earth - The one essential band that every single human needs to hear before they pass away. No matter how old or young you are, Earth is the type of band that will give you everything you need on a record plus fill your heart with dark matter for later use when your hungry. Since the band formed in 1990, Dylan Carlson is the only original member and the mastermind behind everything this band has released or will release as Earth. With "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I", the sixth full-length, I'm learning that this bulldozer of a band is only going to release a record every 3 years or so. That's fine with me since each record puts me in a state of haze and makes me feel like I'm on a natural high.
"Angel of Darkness, Demon of Light I" gives you that bluesy-doom that we all love, only thing is that Earth puts some country influence into it this time around. Most say that "Old Black", the first track on the LP, is the best on the album. Maybe because it's the most upbeat track and has the most going on with the whole country vibe this album gives off. "Old Black" seems to be something your grandfather would listen to while he sat on the front porch, daydreaming of how much he missed the old western days. It reminds you of riding on horseback, shooting things out of the sky, hell, it even reminds me of Bananza or Tombstone. Another valued instrument on this record is the cello, without it this record might not sound the same. Lori Goldston is the type of woman that will put you to sleep like a baby once she starts playing her cello, gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I'll admit this, the album is very slow, gloomy and you might doze off a couple of times while you listen to it but it's a solid record. When you want Earth, you want 25 minute tracks of nothing but slow, hard-hitting chords, not some fast, horrible noise that I get with other bands. "Angel of Darkness, Demon of Light I" is filled this abstract and experimental tones that seem to bring everything together if it was places in a dark room with no light. The way everything mashes is interesting and praise-worthy, in my opinion. Some have said that this record is perfect for background music at a lounge or something you might play after you bring home a sexy young woman. I have to disagree, this record is phenomonial, it gives me that urge to build a realm filled with candles, somewhere you can just lay and let your mind go into outer space.
I don't recommend this album to first time listeners of Earth, those people might wanna check out "Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions" or "HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method". "Angel of Darkness, Demon of Light I" is something for those die-hard Earth fans that love everything the band does, if you love this record it will be playing over and over in your car/house. Earth - The one band that will never let me down, the one band that when everything else has gone to shit, they will lift me up and make me pray to the drone Gods for something this spectacular. Well, looks like I have a realm to build, filled with candles and inceanse that will make the most beautiful of woman want to lay with me. Earth - Creative masterpiece that will make the heavens separate while the children below sing in chants.
I keep wanting to like drone. I test the waters now and then, and very rarely come away with anything I truly enjoy. But I keep coming back to it, because it seems like something I should like, but I'm just missing something.
Drone developed simultaneously in Japan and in Washington state. Earth is sometimes credited as the original drone band in the US. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I is only their sixth full-length, although they've had quite a few minor releases. And I think I'm finally starting to "get" drone, at least a little bit, thanks to its progenitors.
I could go into detail about the ultra-clear but natural sounding production, and how you can feel the air getting pushed out of the bass drum. I could gush over the textures of the subtly-used cello throughout the album, or comment on the cool whammy bar touch on the opening track. I could complain about the lack of vocals. But that misses the point. This is all about the vibe.
The real standout on this album is opener "Old Black", which has a western movie soundtrack feel. You can picture the scenes before and after the showdown, with the hero riding away, onlookers speechless. That western vibe is repeated on "Hell's Winter". There's a cool bluesy vibe to "Father Midnight", and the cello produces a very east-Asian feel to the title track, matching the cover art to the music nicely. I like all of these tracks, but I'm only crazy about the opener. I'm not sure what they were going for on "Descent to the Zenith", and I don't really like it. But the bottom line is, this is all-instrumental music, lasting just over an hour, and I've listened to it a half-dozen times without getting bored. I'd say that's at least a partial success, even if the music is still better suited to background purposes.
The Verdict: The sound of this album is excellent, and the vibe works most of the time. I'm still not sure I completely get it, but I feel like I'm starting to.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Now that they've found their niche in moody, blues-tinged doom metal with some country influences, the essential Earth twosome of Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies are happy to mine their field for all it's worth on "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light". The intro track "Old Black" sets the pace for everything else to follow: slow, repetitive melancholy and contemplative instrumental doom with a fairly clean tone that emphasises long drawn-out riffs and delivered in a plain style. Every instrument is played so slowly and in such an understated way as to appear lethargic. It must take considerable discipline for Carlson and Davies plus guest musicians Lori Goldston and Karl Blau to play as slowly as they do for long periods, especially as what they are playing is essentially minimalist music loops; the paradox is that this style of playing demonstrates their ability as musicians much better and more consistently than a more self-indulgent and florid fretboard-tickling approach.
After "Old Black" comes the even more gloomy and insular "Father Midnight" - at least the main bass riff has a certain sleepy catchiness. The slightly sinister and dark-ish mood is overpowering and a thin lead guitar improvisation merely emphasises the weighty gloom that lies over the entire track instead of fighting it. The next couple of tracks follow with equally minimal rhythm and melody structures. The mood can lighten a little but it never goes away. The use of cello on a couple of tracks hardly seems necessary - it does add a solemn and dread-laden timbre to the music but like all the other instruments it's very low-key so as to be almost inaudible sometimes. It's arguable that the cello's lines could have been played on a guitar for a doomier effect.
The title track dives into the realm of the abstract and experimental with a structure so threadbare at first and with notes so strung out that the dark spaces between them hold the piece together in the manner of a severely abstract painting where the only thing that gives sense to the shapes and lines that appear is the plain or blank background. Davies's drumming eventually provides a shifting backbone over which the music can wander at will. The build-up is slow and consists mainly of sound textures that are added to complicate the track's general meditative mood.
This album is very much one for the die-hard Earth fans who know something of what the band is aiming for and who are aware of Carlson and Co's indifference to pandering to audience expectations: the inward-looking mood, the severely minimalist approach and the pace which rarely rises above what a snail can achieve won't attract any new listeners. I guess that says quite a lot about how people in Western societies have been conditioned (brainwashed even) to prefer only music with a fast pace, a rigid beat and a flashy style with lots of bells and whistles, figuratively speaking. The title track in itself can be a test of endurance though it wasn't intended as such: at 20 minutes in length, focussed on a steady and subtle accumulation of tone, texture and rhythm, it intends to take you to a different conscious realm through hypnotic repetition. You can admire it on a certain level for the way it manipulates song elements and empty space into one very self-contained whole but enjoyment can be a different thing altogether. The album's minimalism can come to seem relentless and boring. Definitely not for casual listeners.
A metal band with a characteristically un-metal sound, it can be swiftly agreed upon that the American drone music ensemble known as Earth has made quite a shift in their sound over the years. From their early days as pioneers of the burgeoning drone metal scene, Earth has now gravitated towards a more cinematic, psychedelic sound, which some might even liken to post-rock. With Earth's latest output, the band makes little change in their overall sound from the previous album, so while fans of the band can expect no derivation from the existing course, 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light' maintains the quality of their minimalistic, atmospheric drone, although the stylistic repetition and consistently relaxed nature of the album will no doubt lead to some listeners zoning out before long.
True to the title, 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light' deals with parallels; opposites. Despite a generally relaxed, chilled sound to the album that runs throughout the hour or so of music here, Earth does it in such a way that there is always a slightly unsettling, lingering element to the sound. A pleasant groove may be followed along, and suddenly it will meet a strange chord change, a chilling moment of guitar feedback, or added flourish that gives the experience quite a bit more than merely listening to the same repetition over again, as many might think when first hearing the band. It is through this that the album becomes very listenable throughout, although it's true that the album does wear thin after about halfway through. While the first couple of songs are quite interesting and still sound fresh, the album generally starts to lose its steam as the songs get longer. This culminates in the closing title track, which is far too listless and long, ultimately feeling as if it ends the album on a very weak point, and could have been left off of the album entirely.
From the first song (and highlight) 'Old Black' onwards, Earth does not stray far from their granted course; even two minutes in, the listener will know what to expect for the next fifty- eight. Slightly distorted guitars slowly and carefully craft textured riffs that really know how to build well, overtop very relaxed and minimalistic drum work. Throughout much of the album, the use of cello is heavily used to add an extra layer to the sound, an element that Earth hasn't used so generously before this. The sum of the parts ends up sounding like a cinematic soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic Old Western.
Earth may do what they do to perfection, but it's the lack of variety that really does the album in. While it may be the perfect piece of music to crowd around the bong with, a more intent listen goes the show that it is about twice as long as it should be. A relaxing journey this is indeed, but if Earth insists of making a long album, they must warrant it through the music.