September 25, 2014

Earth - Primitive and Deadly

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

Earth, the drone kings of the northwest have returned with their seventh full length titled Primitive and Deadly. As most fans know Earth started as a distorted drone band in , releasing two albums as such. Then came Pentastar: In the Style of Demons; at times drone, at times Stoner/DOOM. After a hiatus Earth returned with an entirely new sound with HEX; or Printing in the Infernal Method. Distortion was lowered and elements of Folk and Country were introduced with great effect. This new style has continued to this day, bringing us to Primitive and Deadly; an album that draws from the past and mixes it with the new Earth sound established on HEX. I had the pleasure of seeing Earth open for Deafheaven earlier this year and they played three of the 6 track from this album. As blown away as I was by them then, hearing the finished product puts them to shame.

Photo by Karen A. Mann

Along with the usual excitement that a new Earth album brings, word came that there would be vocals on it. Not an entirely new element as Pentastar had vocals too (also a demo that Kurt Cobain had sung on was later released on Sunn Amps And Smashed Guitars Live). But unlike Pentastar these are guest vocals by the likes of Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) and Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows). Vocals are not the only thing Primitive and Deadly shares with Pentastar. Much like that album Primitive and Deadly has more of a rock song vibe to it. especially on the songs with vocals. But the layered guitars soloing over the top of Carlsons riffs also add to that vibe throughout the entire album. The additional guitars are provided by Brett Nelson (Built to Spill) and Jodie Cox (Narrows). It’s weird because when I saw them live they were a three piece. Dylan on guitars, Adrienne on drums, and new bassist Bill Herzog. Other times I had seen them they had a cello player or they had Steve Moore playing trumpet and organ. So seeing and hearing them as a three peice I thought they were going for a more stripped down approach to the new album.

Photo by Karen A. Mann

In some ways that is true. But the addition of vocals and additional guitars never take away the vibe that Earth creates. It still feels sparse and songs breathe. The new elements only add to the overall. Take the vocals for instance. Mark is a great choice, his gravely Waits-esque vocals a perfect match. The second incarnation of Earth’s music has always given me visions of standing on the edge of cliff looking over the through an open valley surrounded by nature, and his well worn parched vocals only enhance that vision. Rabia on the other hand adds an element to Earth that I never found in their music at any time, psychedelia. Her vocals are as hypnotizing as the tones that Dylan conjures up from his guitar. Her voice sound like a cross between Rose Kemp and Beth Gibbons. Add all this to the solid backbone rhythm section of Herzog and Adrienne, and Primitive and Deadly may be Earth's most ambitious record yet.

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