Earth - Full Upon Her Burning Lips (Sargent House)
When Dylan Carlson loosed Hex upon the dusty, barren stereos of droneheads back in ’05, it wasn’t just a welcome return to one of rock’s most iconic and understated guitar players, it was a complete overhaul of everything that Earth stood for, transplanting those colossal slo-mo riffs to a frazzled, sepia-tinged America long gone and buried. The next few years saw Carlson and long-standing collaborator Adrienne Davies build a monolith on those stalwart foundations, but where to go next? Following a hiatus (thankfully shorter than the one that preceded Hex), it seems the answer is backwards – and what a stroke of genius that has turned out to be.
Carlson has been renowned as a master of tone, able to wield and adapt subtle nuances of sound and timing to paint vivid landscapes and temporal snapshots, but his skill as a melodic songwriter has been somewhat downplayed since the rifftastic days of Pentastar. “Datura’s Crimson Veils” recaptures this lost wonder and adapts it to meet the warmer, crackling tone of recent years, a feat that celebrates three decades of innovation while standing proud and unique. Likewise, “Cats On The Briar” toys with repetition and hesitation to create an unpredictable composition that retains the familiarity of a song ingrained since childhood.
So, it’s unmistakeably an Earth album, but beyond that it contains hints of the proto-Black Sabbath of their genesis, fusing the lethargy of the blues with a darkly menacing strain of psychedelia that toys with the senses; “Maiden’s Catafalque” may be the shortest song on offer but it’s also the most affecting, those elongated chords just swimming around the skull for its duration. It’s been a long time since Earth felt so free with their sound, so willing to experiment with structure and mood, but it seems that all it took was 5 years away from the game for them to deliver perhaps the most ‘complete’ album of their career. If they can ride this wave into the future, we can expect nothing but magic from now on.