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Listening to this makes me think that I really oughta revisit Earth 2. I wasn't down with that album when I first head it, but this is some rad shit. It's not drone but definitely something closely related (have a habit of calling it hypnodoom, myself), and it's still one of the finest releases in the sub-sub genre/niche that it's in.
Earth rely on a very simple premise here, which I will summarise as 'fuzzy guitar play riff lots times'. It's a very solid premise and some stoned as hell vocals on Revenge Pt 2 aside they do their best to hold onto it. Helps that the riffs are completely radtastic. "Drone doom" is often a genre that has little in the way of the latter, but man, that huge opening riff on the first track, doomy as shit bro. Awesome stuff, it's like someone took a random sabbath riff, slowed it way down and then just looped the everloving hell out of it; the fact that it segues into another sweet riff (then another one!) just makes it even better. Three riffs in a song! Hell yeah. Dark Angel, take notes.
I like how the drums on here are fake as hell, and although they are sort of necessary, you can definitely see that Carlson and whoever else was in the band had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted to do next. A preview of said "next" is in the fantastic closer, "Ouroboros is Broken", one of the best drone/doom songs ever released.
It's something that I'm sure most dudes in particularly slow doom bands have done from time to time- hit some fine green (or cheap green, for the students) and just jammed on one riff over and over again, until the high wears off or until things get too awesome to continue. I've done it with a friend for three hours at one point, and I'm sure Earth's original vision of Ouroboros was of a similarly epic length, but luckily here it's just 18 odd minutes of sweet riff and sweet leaf. It is freakin rad though, a real nice doomy thang, some gongs and that mechanical percussion creaking away, until we're left with the final few bars of the riff just repeating over and over again while some synths drone away in the background. Just completely numbs your head... a truly brilliant jam, for sure! The atmosphere has this strange mix between eastern mysticism and that whole desolate desert thing that Earth explored later on; just an exotic and amazing track all round.
I'd rec this to dudes looking to get into drone/doom, definitely, as aside from it being completely fantastic it's also relatively short, being an EP an' all, although Ouroboros is a bit of an inaccessible beast, being 18 minutes of one riff. Well worth getting anyway, definitely don't delay on this if you like weed and/or you're a big fan of real slow, hypnotic shit.
Extra-Capsular Extraction is an interesting little EP. It was their first "proper" release, but manages to have pretty much everything they will do in the future crammed into its thirty minute duration. Even more interesting is that it's the shortest Earth record (correct me if I'm wrong), so having so much content in it is brilliant. At the time, it probably didn't look like much. A CD pretty much covered in white, medical jargon, mugshot-esque photographs of three fairly dour-looking gentlemen, and a very minimalist front cover. It doesn't even have a discernible track listing. Obviously, even at the most melodic and poppy, Earth were never meant for radio airplay. Because of that, this EP didn't even have that "hit single" which jumped to your attention through all of the words on the back cover. Simply put, if you bought this in the 90's, you were either looking for something different, picked it up on a whim, had heard the band's earlier demos, or were just super into Kurt Kobain (sic).
It's nice to know that Earth pretty much made it 'big' in doom circles because of their so-called masterpiece, Earth 2, influence on Sunn O))) and their sudden style change during the Hex-era. Because of this, people are tracking down their older records, this one included. It's comforting to know that this record hadn't completely faded into obscurity, since it's my favourite Earth record, prior to Hex.
Once you DID find out the track listing, you'd find that there was only three tracks, with one considerably longer than the others. It sounds pretty disappointing, but giving it a spin, it's apparent that each track gives its own atmosphere and tone. For example, the first two tracks (while being two parts of the whole "A Beurocratic Desire for Revenge" suite) offer a slow-burning introduction, and a more musically conventional piece, complete with vocals and percussion respectively. The third track, Ouroboros is Broken (which would later be revisitied on the western-tinged Hibernaculum) is Earth which you know from Earth 2. Long, droning notes, creating migraine-inducing, yet very calming soundscapes. Ouroboros is Broken is still slightly more "normal", as it has percussion on it, but the overall effect is the same.
Like I said earlier, while being the first album, this short mini-album pretty much defines anything Earth would do in future. The more conventional rock parts, equally mixed with drones, yet bearing a slight western tinge in places. While the band were still getting to grips with the music, it's obvious that Dylan and co. have a very clear idea of what they want to do, and what kind of band they wanted to be.
The record has aged quite well. While a lot of earlier Sub-Pop records sound quite dated, this one could have easily been put out on the same day as Pentastar: In the Style of Demons. And of course, as it has dated, the then-unknown musicians have pretty much made something of a mini-supergroup. Dylan Carlson on guitar, Joe Preston on Bass and Percussion, as well as guest vocals by Kurt Cobain. It's a wonderful blueprint, as well as summary, of Earth.
First release for what was in 1991 a trio (Dylan Carlson, Dave Harwell, Joe Preston) and already the Earth plan of attack on doom metal is taking shape: slowed-down guitar riffs (but not that much slowed-down) that are long and drawn-out, a primitive minimalist attitude to structuring songs with a huge emphasis on repetition and unconventional percussion, in this case programmed drumming from Joe Preston who would go on to refine his technique in his Thrones project. The two "A Bureaucratic Desire for Revenge" tracks are pretty much the same: slow, steady, monotonous and repeating guitar riffs and equally plodding drum machine thunk-thunk beats with the occasional metal clank-clank trundling over the same melodic territory. At least Part 2 of "A Bureaucratic Desire ..." features vocals, and very tuneless and monotonous singing from Dylan Carlson at that (in contrast to the style of singing common to doom metal in the early 1990s) and background screaming from guest musician Kelly Canary. (Oh, and just in case you didn't already know, Kurt Cobain guests on guitar and possibly the backing vocals instead of Canary.) The music is shambling and endless with a deep and powerful sound.
The third track "Ouroboros Is Broken" has more defined but still slow riffs. The percussion is more dramatic with synthesised gong bonging though these tones get boring and tedious after a while. The majority of this track (15 minutes out of its 18) is circular as befits the track title: just one riff of three notes repeats over and over and over. Any variations in this section (and they are present!) are so subtle as to be more sensed than heard. Teasing hints that the music will soon end are tossed to listeners but no, the musicians continue to carve out their particular deep groove until, indeed, when you are on the floor prostrate from numbed brain cells, the Ouroboros groove is broken.
I'm surprised that I'm the first person to review this EP, seeing that Kurt Cobain features on it and Sub Pop has been flogging anything and everything by Earth that has Kurt Cobain's fingerprints somewhere, so maybe the recording is really hard to find or people can't find enough to comment on due to the repetition, the music's primitive nature and the fact that the musicians don't give much away. The EP is easier on the ear than later Earth recordings though not by much and the drumming makes it more accessible to metal folks than it would be otherwise so it's best viewed as a prologue to Earth's first full-length album which goes much further than what you hear here in deconstructing doom metal and its elements.
I find it interesting that on the back of the CD sleeve there's a list of surgical instruments and anaesthetics which to me is a reflection of the music being very matter-of-fact clinical and obsessively retreading the same raw bleeding riffs as though it means to keep exposing a raw wound.