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Earth – “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I” Review

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

Earth – “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I” (Southern Lord Recordings, 2011)

Some record labels seem to capture the zeitgeist of particular eras. Think about SST in the ‘80s or Sub Pop in the ‘90s (and if you want o carry it even further back – how about Sun Records in the 1950s or Stax in the 1960s). I am going to go out on a limb here – and this isn’t much of a risk, I must confess – and predict that Southern Lord Records will be the label of record for 2010s. You want proof? How about Pelican, Wolves in the Throne Room, Sunn O))) and Boris? Add the reunited and rejuvenated three-piece Corrosion of Conformity, the most bone-snapping, face-shredding band I’ve ever seen back when they were at a trio in 1985-86, to this impressive lineup and you have the uncompromising soundtrack to the Great Recession.

Earth is one of the keystones of Southern Lord’s roster. They pioneered the drone subgenre twenty years ago. Earth combined the doom style of The Melvins with the minimalism of the main riff of Sabbath’s song “Black Sabbath.” They then made the riffs even barer and slowed it down to a glacial pace. When I say glacial I mean ice ages came and went at a quicker tempo than most drone songs; it is not usual for the drummer in a drone band to hit the snare 30 times (or less) in a minute. The drone tag, however, comes from the repetition of the minimalist riff – sometimes just a single chord – over and over and over again.  It sounds like a recipe for boredom, right? In lesser hands, it might be but Earth uses the repetition as a foundation to build an interesting soundscape where the nature of repetition and subtle differences leads to a sonic gestalt. The sum is indeed greater than the individual parts.

Each Earth album has evinced a sparking evolution in the band’s sound. Along the way, the band ditched the speaker melting distortions and recast themselves as a contemplative genre-bendings – almost jazzy – combo that recently has featured Dylan Carlson’s country-influenced guitar sound. The constants through this evolution, though, have been everything is still played at a doom tempo with the drone-like repetition. The result on their most recent record, “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I” is a work that is not metal at all and yet it is, as Nick of “Nick’s Condensed Metal Reviews” wrote.

Earth – “Father Midnight“:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4M_Np53-A0

“Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I” is not for the impatient; there is no instant gratification here, no short cuts. The songs unfold gracefully and mournfully in what the French call the aesthetic of “duree” or duration. Earth takes a particular riff or melody and put it metaphorically under an electron microscope – the songs examine all the melodies’ constitute parts and looks at them from all possible angles as different instruments and sounds drift in and out. Although the album says there are five songs on it, they all actually in conversation with each other and they end up congealing into one unified “meta-song” – the pay off for having the patience to stick with the whole record. It is a remarkable and rewarding listening experience, a rarity these days.

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Krallice – “Diotima” Review

Krallice - "Diotima"

Kralice – “Diotima” (Profound Lore Records, 2011)

These days many bands squawk and rave that they are influenced by Black Metal. The influence usually comes in two forms — either as slavish imitation that results in mind numbing and useless generic blackened metal or bands include a blast beat or two and some constipated, “spectral” vocals because our sub-genre carries some cache of coolness right now (I can’t believe I just typed those words). In other words, few aggregations use Black Metal to build something new and uniquely their own. Krallice, a Brooklyn-based super group, is one of the exceptions. Their new album, “Diotima,” takes the blueprint laid down by Darkthrone and other early 1990s Norwegian Black Metal groups and builds something distinctive, exciting and skull crushing.

What sets Krallice and “Diotima,” their third album, apart from the legions of uninspired Black Metal practitioners? It bludgeons the listener – something that very few Black Metal-influenced records do. What makes it so heavy? Krallice’s dense, intricate and savage sound. The term “wall of sound” is overused but it fits perfectly for the album’s interweaving of tremolo-picked guitar and blast beat drumming. The result is a disc that is as relentless and intense as the Swans or Einsturzende Neubauten even though Krallice isn’t a noise band. Don’t think Black Metal can hammer you? Check out “The Clearing”:

Krallice – “The Clearing”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwgbmwtQGFw

I wasn’t lying, right? It is unrelentingly urgent; Krallice doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath. Krallice and “Diotima” challenge you to wake up from the comfortable stupor of your everyday fugue and break shit. Grab it when it comes out on April 26th.