Earth, "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I"

Sunday, 27 February 2011 17:41 Stephen Bush Reviews - Albums and Singles
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cover imageLate last year, Southern Lord released a collection of Earth's earliest recordings, several of which originally appeared on their first EP, 1991's Extra-Capsular Extraction. That may prove a red herring for those wanting the band to revisit its pioneering brand of drone-doom metal. Earth's latest magnum opus continues in the opposite direction, building on the gorgeous gothic Americana debuted on 2005's Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method. Fortunately, Earth have not only recorded a capable new album—they have made subtle stylistic adjustments that pay off handsomely.

Southern Lord

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 - Earth

Whether spurred by the unavailability of guitarist Dylan Carlson's prior band mates, his creative restlessness, or a little bit of both, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I sees significant changes in Earth's line-up. Steve Moore, who played piano and Hammond organ on 2008's masterful The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull, is absent for this recording. Karl Blau takes the place of Don McGreevy on bass guitar. Most noticeably, Lori Goldston joins the band on cello—an instrument that proves vital to Earth's approach on this album, a heavenly counterpoint to Carlson's endlessly reverberating guitar. As always, Adrienne Davies serves as the band's percussive anchor on "sea hooves and Satans' knuckles" as well as Carlson's songwriting partner.

At its core, Earth has focused on slow tempos, minimalism and repetition for the last 20 years: less is more, Carlson has often said. On Angels of Darkness, the band takes a step back from the complex, jazz-influenced sound of The Bees Made Honey and simplifies its songwriting, drawing attention to the striking, cinematic interplay between Carlson's guitar and Goldston's cello. This album is all about nuance: the way Carlson carefully strikes each chord, letting it resonate patiently in the open space between Davies' steady drum hits, notes bending and quivering against a backdrop of subterranean electric bass. Colorful smears of cello breathe depth into the songs, weaving around and through Carlson's enveloping guitar tones, filling out Earth's lush sound. The five songs play well together as a suite, centering on subtle improvisation within simple, repetitive, long-form structures that I find hypnotic, absorbing and ultimately satisfying.

The final song, "Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I," was improvised and recorded live in the studio, stretching out to 20 minutes. It takes its time getting off the ground, with cello and bass slowly fading in before Carlson and Davies join. The session unfolds to gorgeous effect, a resonant wash of guitar and cello tones rising and falling throughout; toward the song's end, guitar and drums disappear and the track closes, fittingly, as it began—on cello and bass. Two years ago, songs from The Bees Made Honey were reborn on 2009's Radio Earth EP, a live recording that set aside the immaculate production of Bees and let the band interact in a spontaneous setting. That Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I closes with a similar, beautifully paced recording—itself the capstone on an album full of songs that showcase Earth's live chemistry—is a major success.

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Last Updated on Monday, 11 April 2011 13:40