November 13, 2014 Earth – Primitive and Deadly (Album Review)
Comfortably sitting between Sludge Metal and minimalism, Drone Metal pioneers and experimental music apologists Earth formed in Olympia, Washington in 1989. Dylan Carlson, Earth’s mastermind was an active participant in Washington’s loud Rock scene. An avid Melvins fan and longtime associate of Kurt Cobain, Carlson towed the line between aggressive, angst-driven Metal and La Monte Young-inspired Avant-garde. In 1993, Earth released their first full-length album, a seventy-five minute sonic assault of droning ambient Metal entitled Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, which is regarded to be the first Drone Metal album ever produced. Since this monumental album’s release, Carlson and company gradually loosened their grip on their visceral brand of minimal Metal and began delving into sounds found more traditionally in Rock music at large. They added harmonies and more palpable rhythms in Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (1995) and by Pentastar: In the Style of Demons in 1996, they operated as a fully-functioning Stoner Metal band, drums and all. The release of Pentastar directly preceded Earth’s hiatus that Carlson attributes primarily to his struggles with heroin. Upon overcoming his addiction, Carlson reformed Earth in 2003. Hex; Or Printing in the Infernal Method (2005) and The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (2008) saw a radically different sound, having more in common with Country, Folk Rock, and Post-Rock than any variety of Metal. The years 2011 and 2012 bred the respective counterparts of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light duology, which confirmed that Earth had not lost their proclivity for introspective, Drone-based minimalism. Earth’s 2014 album Primitive and Deadly proved to be an extension of their previous work with an added dimension of density for flavor.
Harkening back to an era of Earth’s career when riffs and groove were used as their primary propulsion, Primitive and Deadly is kicked off with “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon,” which is the most driving Rock song they have released in years. The song creeps menacingly through its nine-minute duration, slowly exposing itself as a logical development from the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums. Its tasteful pacing ensures that the track retains its impact throughout its course, which is a crucial compositional component on both this song and “Even Hell Has Its Heroes,” the only other instrumental track on the album, which places the majority of its bite in its Blues influence. Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan lent his talents to the closing track “Rooks Across the Gates,” which is a soulful venture in experimental Rock. Lanegan is also present on “There Is a Serpent Coming,” a Xanax-induced hard psych song that sleepily marches through lyrical imagery of ambiguous mythology. “From the Zodiacal Light,” the longest song on the album, clocking in at eleven and a half minutes, features a vocal cameo by Rabia Shaheen Qazi from Seattle Acid Rock outfit Rose Windows and is a prime example of the connectivity to Earth’s Blues-laden Post-Rock days in the mid-2000s. Once again, Earth’s pacing on this song is impeccable and demonstrates their seemingly logic-defying mastery of the taming of lengthier tracks, thanks to the band’s USDA-approved organic chemistry, as well as Qazi’s exquisite performance.
It is unsurprising that Dylan Carlson has described Primitive and Deadly as a record that is grounded in a musical landscape, rather than in literature or cinema like were many of Earth’s previous efforts. It is truly something of a cumulative album, marrying the best parts of Pentastar, Angels of Darkness, and The Bees Made Honey to create a soluble brew of the styles in which Earth has been involved. This is an exceptionally bold project in Earth’s catalogue and is essential for any fan of the band or Rock music enthusiast in general. CrypticRock gives Primitive and Deadly 4.5 out of 5 stars.