Tag Archives: List

The Bandcamp Guide to Earth

Earth

For nearly 30 years, Dylan Carlson has occupied an unlikely dual role as a true vanguard of experimental music and an undisputed Lord of the Riff, garnering respect from outer-sound explorers and metal heshers in equal measure. He’s also a critical part of a mainstream history of alternative music that doesn’t quite know what to do with him. Earth’s debut EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction, came out on Sub Pop the same year Nirvana released Nevermind, and when Kurt Cobain committed suicide three years later, it was with a shotgun Carlson bought for him (originally as a means of self-defense). You’d forgive a band whose early years were so intense for flaming out quickly, or for milking their notoriety on the nostalgia circuit. Neither of those scenarios has been the case for Earth.


Amid the chaos of the Seattle scene, Carlson was essentially inventing the drone/doom genre that bands like Sunn O))) and Boris would later expand on. He figured out a way to twist Tony Iommi’s amplifier worship into something with a dynamic spectrum so tight that the slightest deviations—a familiar riff coming back with its final note bent, a feedback squall that shatters a meditative drone, a cymbal hit that comes in a half-beat early—became seismic events. Reinvigorated by the addition of drummer Adrienne Davies in 2001, the band is making some of its finest work today, including the brilliant Full Upon Her Burning Lips. The album’s cover is a first for Earth—a portrait of Carlson and Davies in vivid close-up, both defiant, both still standing, all these years later.

Earth

Here’s a guide to a few of the most essential releases in Earth’s vast discography.

A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction

The seven songs that comprise A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction spent 20 years waiting to be reunited. Recorded in October 1990 as a debut full-length that never saw the light of day, the songs were parceled out across demos, EPs, and limited-edition records before finally being remastered and presented as a full album in 2010. It’s almost shocking how fully-formed the aesthetic of Earth’s first incarnation sounds on their earliest recordings. Carlson seems to have sprung from the womb capable of building towering drones out of detuned post-Master of Reality riffs. “Ouroboros Is Broken” is the obvious masterstroke here, an 18-minute treatise on heaviness that remains a staple of the band’s live set.

Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method

Following a series of essential ’90s albums that shaped the sound of drone metal as we know it, Earth went on hiatus. Carlson was in the throes of heroin addiction and dealing with the fallout from his friend Kurt Cobain’s death. Music was the last thing on his mind. The band rebooted in the early aughts, and 2005’s Hex LP was the first major document of their ongoing second era. The impossibly heavy guitar drones remained, but they were complemented by the genius feel of drummer Adrienne Davies, and Carlson’s country and Western influences started to come through more in the songs. Earth have always had an Ennio Morricone streak, but on Hex, he’s a spiritual ghost writer.

The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull

In 2008, Earth released what many consider their best album. The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull is the band at their most grandiose, taking inspiration from the Biblical story of Samson and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and enlisting a crack team of collaborators to add new dimensions to their signature sound. Steve Moore—who releases music under the name “Stebmo” and has also performed extensively with Sunn O)))—splashes piano, Hammond, and Wurlitzer across the sonic canvas, and the legendary avant-garde guitarist Bill Frisell (of Naked City solos) with a controlled chaos that contrasts Carlson’s desert-rock drones brilliantly. The hypnotic riffs on the album double as hooks, too; good luck listening to “Rise to Glory” or “Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine)” without getting them stuck in your head.

Primitive and Deadly

The vast majority of Earth’s music is fully instrumental, and when it does utilize vocals, it’s typically to add another sonic texture, not to shift the focal point of the song. Primitive and Deadly is the glaring exception. Fellow Seattle alt-rock hero Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees brings his gravelly voice to the ominous tone poems “There Is a Serpent Coming” and “Rooks Across the Gate,” and Rose Windows belter Rabia Shaheen Qazi steals the show with her histrionic performance on album centerpiece “From the Zodiacal Light.” The remaining two songs are instrumental, and they make the case for Primitive and Deadly as the most metal Earth album. “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” is driven by a palm-muted riff that chugs forward like thrash played a quarter-speed, and “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” indulges in a 10-minute guitar solo.

The Bug vs. Earth – Concrete Desert

Here’s the album where Dylan Carlson renewed his experimental pioneer license. Concrete Desert is a collaboration between Earth and U.K. noise/dub/industrial artist The Bug. If that sounds like an odd fit, especially for the Western-obsessed Mark II version of Earth, then the project did its job. There’s room enough on Concrete Desert for The Bug and Earth to both sound like themselves, and also room enough for them to collide in unpredictable, thrillingly cacophonous ways. The best song here might be the JK Flesh-featuring bonus track “Dog,” which in an alternate timeline would have fueled the wildest raves of the early ’90s.

Full Upon Her Burning Lips

Full Upon Her Burning Lips, the latest Earth full-length, foregrounds the humanity of Carlson and Davies, both in its striking cover art and in the intimacy of its compositions. It retains the widescreen scope of the best Earth albums, but it also manages to make it feel like we’re in the room with the band while they’re tracking it. Musically, the stop-start dynamics of “The Colour of Poison” introduce a new wrinkle to the classic Earth sound, while the two 11-minute-plus tracks, “Datura’s Crimson Veils” and “She Rides an Air of Malevolence,” rival the most epic moments of the band’s career.

-Brad Sanders

8 Essential LPs From Italy’s Power Metal Renaissance

Alex-Staropoli-of-Rhapsody-Claudia_Chiodi-1244

Alex Staropoli of Rhapsody, photo by Claudia Chiodi

In the history of heavy metal, Italy is often considered the birthplace of symphonic power metal: a genre that combined the speed of early German power metal with the neo-classical guitar playing of Yngwie Malmsteen, all in the service of telling elaborate (read: over the top) pulp fantasy stories. To some, it’s a subgenre synonymous with self-parody; power metal is second only to black metal in terms of the potential for unintentional comedy. It’s an easy target, as power metal trades the transgressive nature of even early heavy metal for earnest nerdery, in increasingly baroque arrangements. However, that narrative ignores the pivotal roles Italian heavy metal played in the global scene throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s—not to mention the renaissance happening in the genre right now.

Continue reading

Voyage Through Amon Amarth’s Must-Hear Releases on Bandcamp

Amon Amarth

They weren’t the first Scandinavian band to write about Viking history, Norse mythology, and the glorious thrill of battle, but Stockholm, Sweden quintet Amon Amarth have done more with Viking themes and imagery than nearly all their peers. Over the last quarter-century, they’ve risen to Odin-esque levels of achievement that the founders of the movement couldn’t have imagined: Top 20 Billboard debuts, world tours, and even a mobile video game.

Continue reading

Synth Trailblazer Steve Moore Walks Us Through His Selected Discography

Steve Moore

Although he rose to prominence with the highly influential synth prog duo Zombi, bassist/keyboardist Steve Moore has since amassed an impressive—and intimidating—catalog of releases over the last 15-plus years. Even beyond his solo material, there’s his disco project Lovelock, his film soundtracks, and his supporting role in the darksynth group Miracle and the noise-prog unit Titan. His latest non-soundtrack LP, Beloved Exile, marks the next step in his evolution; it’s a more intimate, personal-feeling project than the dark, pulsing soundscapes of his previous efforts.

Continue reading

White Noise Records is a Hub for Hong Kong’s DIY Underground

Tfvsjs

Tfvsjs

“In Western culture, it’s almost a rite of passage to rebel—to join a band, to be an artist, is generally no big deal. That’s not Hong Kong’s reality,” explains Valentine Nixon, one half of New Zealand dream-pop sister duo Purple Pilgrims. “When it comes to experimental music, there is a general sense that people really mean what they’re saying. They’re living what they’re making, because it’s so far from social norms or acceptance. This often makes the art itself feel political, even when it’s not trying to be.” Nixon is speaking from experience here. Raised between New Zealand and Hong Kong by itinerant parents, some of her formative musical moments took place in Hong Kong’s underground, a landscape worlds removed from the image-obsessed Cantonese pop of the region’s glossy mainstream.

Continue reading

The Rich 50-Year History of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Jazz-fest-1244-6

Images courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Burt Steel, John Messina and Michael P Smith

In the 1960s, New Orleans was the site of a fantastic collision of musical sounds and styles. There were the brass bands and kinetic improvisations associated with Louis Armstrong and his cohorts, the deep blues and gospel shouts endemic to the Mississippi Delta, and the nascent rock ‘n’ roll scene, steeped in the city’s R&B heritage. That’s not even getting into the immortal bayou grooves—zydeco, funk, Cajun—which were, and always will be, crucial strands in New Orleans’ cultural DNA. Continue reading

A Brief Guide to Metal In China

Be Persecuted

Be Persecuted photo by Deng Zhang

Though outside music was mostly banned from the People’s Republic of China until the 1980s, metal gained an early foothold among rock musicians and fans in the country. Genre forerunners like the glam-leaning Black Panther, formed in 1987, and epically named Tang Dynasty were packing stadiums and moving units in the early years of the genre’s appearance in the country. Continue reading