What happens when a band has had a long, critically fruitful career, and has virtually nothing left to prove? There are two paths to be taken at this juncture. The first path is one of complacency and recycling of old themes and ideas. The second path is one of exploration. It’s a path of growth and one for shedding away the supposed conventions your art is labelled with. It’s one of continual rebirth, continual rising suns over a multitude of horizons. This is the path walked by Seattle’s Earth on their newest opus, Primitive and Deadly.
Earth has spent an entire career dissecting riffs from within, an analyzing of note after note and a sharing their findings with listeners in palpable ways, accented by a myriad of stellar instrumentation and accompaniments. Theirs is a career built upon the notion that every note is part of a woven ocean of beauty, yet simultaneously as important as every drop of rain upon a sun-scorched landscape. That hasn’t changed for Earth on this, their tenth full-length album. What has changed though is the presentation, which remains as exquisite and exotic as any of their past releases, maybe even more so.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Vocals play a more central role on this album in ways that are unlike anything Earth has previously recorded. Alt/psych/stoner/folk rock veteran Mark Lanegan offers his grizzled services on two tracks – “There is a Serpent Coming” and “Rooks Across The Gate”. While, Rabia Shaheen Qazi, of the immensely underrated Rose Windows outfit provides vocals to the track “From The Zodiacal Light”. These three tracks alone would suffice in showing off the brilliant tangents in which Earth has partaken on this album. “There is a Serpent Coming” feels as if it’s found the missing like between Metal and the Blues, as Lanegan rambles and lumbers through his performance like a drunk looking for more of the good stuff. It’s intentional and it’s effective for the mood set by Dylan Carlson’s guitar as it also rambles and lumbers through a series of stoned out Blues riffs. “Rooks Across The Gates” meanwhile sees Carlson’s guitar and Lanegan’s vocals on an interstellar journey through time and space, returning to us with the proverbial secrets of the Universe that they will only share amongst the most enlightened. Finally there is “From The Zodiacal Light” which is easily one of the best tracks on the album. Qazi’s vocals are an alluring slice of sonic seduction adding to a mystical brew of 60’s psych rock and doom metal influences. Future collaborations from those involved on this track in particular would not be frowned upon.
The rest of the album may be sans vocals, but it certainly is not devoid of expository displays of self-examination and ideological germination. The pretenses of what makes an Earth album an Earth album are ritualistically stripped away with Primitive and Deadly. It’s certainly still an Earth album in the truest sense, but only because Carlson and long time cohort, drummer Adrienne Davies, allow their spirits to continually roam free. Change is a constant in Nature, as it should be in those artists seemingly with the closest connections to it. Earth have always been a sort of sacred experience, each album touching on the most incorporeal elements of our existence. Their shifts and twists in musical direction don’t hinder that. On the contrary, it expounds on it.
Primitive and Deadly is due out via Southern Lord on September 2. You can experience the gorgeous track, “From The Zodiacal Light” over at the Southern Lord Bandcamp page.