Released: 2014, Southern Lord
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Legendary pioneers of drone doom, Dylan Carlson’s Earth are one of those bands that plenty of people have heard of, but few ever bothered to check out properly. We’re all familiar with Carlson’s friendship with Kurt Cobain and their influence on bands like Sunn0))), but how many Nirvana fans ever bothered to dig into their discography? They’re a band that gets name-dropped more often than listened to and ‘Primitive And Deadly’ won’t change that. For the dedicated few who have hung around since the 80’s however, this’ll be a must-buy and perhaps the most significant doom album of the entire year.
Ever since they reappeared on the international stage with 2005’s excellent ‘Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method’ the band has been on an upward creative trajectory and ‘Primitive And Deadly’ continues this cycle. Five tracks of long, dissonant doom, it is a difficult and arduous listen, but it can also be incredibly captivating. ‘Torn By The Fox Of The Crescent Moon’ for example is bleak and oppressive, a grinding instrumental track that feels akin to dragging a crucifix across the desert, getting closer to a watering hole with every second that passes only to find out at the last moment it’s filled with nothing but ash.
That isn’t to say that ‘Primitive And Deadly’ is all darkness however as there is far more light and shade than you might expect. ‘Even Hell Has Its Heroes’ is another long-winded, feedback heavy track but it also pushes Carlson’s guitar skills to the forefront as he unleashes his inner rock nerd. At times it’s like watching a legendary blues player jamming in a New Orleans bar, at others it sounds like something that would play while the Sons Of Anarchy ride along a sun-parched highway, but it’s still avant-garde enough to keep the doom circle happy.
What may be most striking to their fans though is that this is the first Earth album since 1996 to feature vocals. Mark Lanegan pokes his head out of the fallout shelter to appear on ‘There Is A Serpent Coming,’ crooning about the approach of the beast like a rock star transformed by heroin into a schizophrenic hobo. He’s followed by Rabia Shaheen Qazi of Rose Windows whose soulful performance on ‘From The Zodiacal Light’ is like a ray of sunshine on a blasted wasteland. We’re all doomed, but somehow we’re also going to be okay.
Finally, there’s the strangely uplifting ‘Rooks Across The Gates,’ a song that is as vast and all-encompassing as anything Isis have ever written and ends the album on a high note. It’s like catching sight of something beautiful and life affirming while trapped in a sinking bathysphere and features another stand out vocal performance from Lanegan. It’s the perfect finale to an exhausting but satisfying album and long-time fans of Earth will likely adore this just as much as their previous records. It’s not the equal of the classic ‘Earth 2,’ but it’s enough to keep them punishing speakers, ear drums and the crowd at All Tomorrow’s Parties for at least a few more years, even if the vast majority of the world’s music fans continue to ignore them.
Review by Tim Bolitho-Jones