If you’re a fan of drone metal at all, loving Earth is mandatory. On their Extra-Capsular Extraction EP and their legendary full-length debut Earth 2, Dylan Carlson all but invented the genre. Repetitive riffs bolstered by a mammoth guitar tone moved in a slow evolution across 73 minutes, calling to mind something ancient and primal. This was the sound of shifting tectonic plates, Pangaea splintering into continents, glaciers sliding forward and back across the face of the planet, countless waves battering shores across unfathomable aeons – and if you cranked it up loud enough, it could even cure tension headaches. (True story! Try it if you don’t believe me.) Modern drone pioneers like Sunn O))), Boris, Nadja, and Eagle Twin owe Carlson a debt they can never repay, as his was the vision that sparked this genre’s original genesis. But interestingly enough, ever since Earth’s rebirth in 2005 with HEX; Or Printing In The Infernal Method, the band has moved farther and farther away from their metal influences to embrace their current style of soundtracking the slowest Western movie ever. The glacial pace, entrancing riffs, and inherent heaviness of the music is still there, make no mistake, but this new Earth is an entirely different beast from the rumbling behemoth of the early 1990’s. 2008’s The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull was a transformative work, bolstered by church organs and gospel influence, and seeing it performed live was almost a religious experience. 2011’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I kept up the momentum of the band’s newfound unique minimalist beauty while shifting the tone to something darker, with backing from an absolutely foreboding cello on the part of Lori Goldston. And now comes the second record in the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light series, a fitting counterpart to the themes and music explored on the first.
While the first album in this series started out with the menacing and arresting “Old Black” and “Father Midnight,” two songs that grabbed you with an immediately arresting and ominous mood straight from the get-go, Angels-Demons II is much more of a slow burner. The deceptively simple minimalist arrangements and sparse instrumentation demand a close and attentive listen. “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” builds slowly around the percussive rhythms of Karl Blau’s bass strumming, and the slow crawl of “A Multiplicity of Doors” picks up straight where Angels-Demons I left off, as the slow riffs of Carlson are bolstered by Goldston’s tortured, scraping cello and the deliberate and anchoring drumbeats of Adrienne Davies. The meditative jams of “The Corascene Dog” and “The Rakehell” wind through different variations on the same riff, resulting in fantastic music to put on in the background but overall lacking in memorable moments. This is an issue I have with the album as a whole, in fact, as there are no gripping tracks like the aforementioned “Old Black” or Hibernaculum’s “Ouroboros is Broken,” only slow and pondering jams. This is what Earth undoubtedly does best, however, and Angels-Demons II proves that they still do it better than any other. While the first album in the series has more memorable moments and riffs than this offering, there’s still no better album to put on than this one when driving through an empty desert of the American Southwest in the dead of a cloudless night. The focus is placed on atmosphere rather than riffage, and their goals are achieved strikingly well. You will be pleased by this release if you’re already a fan of Earth‘s contemporary work, but those looking for the early 90’s Earth with walls of amps and droning guitars should look to torch-bearers like Sunn O))) or Boris. Earth is now a very different beast from their early incarnation, and those who give them the patience they demand will be greatly rewarded.
Album: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
Label: Southern Lord Recordings
Release Date: February 14th, 2012