Earth Primitive and Deadly

[Southern Lord; 2014]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: doom, new revelation
Others: sunn O))), Cormac McCarthy

The way you feel the creep of winter in the beginning of fall, the night sky in the darkling day, and the death’s-head in the selfie, you can hear the locked-talon grind of inevitability in Earth’s doom.

It’s all over now
The Devil’s got you down
It’s all over now
There’s no need to come down
It’s all over now
The Devil’s got you
It’s all over now

Primitive and Deadly’s not quite as grim as the above lyrics suggest (you read right; there is singing on this album). The passage comes from 11-minute centerpiece “From the Zodiacal Daylight,” delivered in a hypnotizing wail by Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows). You hear your own damnation, but the words are meant to reassure, not terrorize: There is comfort in surrender. The band is playing inevitability as catharsis, the bleeding heart of doom given a voice. The song’s siren vocals are matched in intensity by Earth’s slow-morphing psych drone, which has all the dragged-out thunder and noise that characterized the band’s first incarnation. You can hear the remnants of recent releases (the masterful two-part Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light) in many of the album’s desert-crazed melodies, but Earth have turned up the volume again. Here is renewed heaviness and darkness, with crashing riffs from the very first, but also a faint gleam of light that throws the songs in relief.

There are surprising moments of uplift throughout. Actual major chords make an appearance during the glimmering fallout of “There Is A Serpent Coming,” which follows a foreboding gospel in the ragged voice of Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). He proclaims the coming of a New Revelation “so deep and deadly” like it’s always already upon us. The consistent use of apocalyptic and Biblical imagery might strike some listeners as hackneyed, but grandiosity begets grandiosity, and the song’s towering guitar swells more than justify the doomsday lyricism. Closer “Rooks Across the Gates” also features Lanegan and guitars fit for a hero’s theme.

Primitive and Deadly isn’t the sound of reinvention or innovation, really, but the sound of revision, a band honing themselves to their sharpest elements to convey a renewed purpose. The band is clockwork. Hard… rock. Steady… rock. Because it doesn’t glow with the specter of the New, its appeal might be curbed for listeners who’ve “heard this before,” but if you listen closely, you’ll hear decades of noise rechanneled into a beleaguered album, a testament to the push and pull of Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies. Davies’ percussion and Bill Herzog’s bass are unflinching and powerful in their minimalism. From the anthemic opening of “Rooks Across the Gates” to the sunbleached shredding on “Even Hell Has Its Heroes,” the instrumentation breathes persistence, a conceptual commitment to keeping time and respecting its wear. Carlson’s guitar work is as patient as ever, given breathing room so that the sustained ripples of riffs reach out and form the bedrock for melodies yet to wreck.

Earth have become Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, and this is their New Revelation. Primitive and Deadly will take you to the highest heights of doom, high enough to see the end in its coming. It’s all over now, there’s no need to come down.

Links: Earth - Southern Lord

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