Earth pull back desert dust, visit darker, ominous terrain on wondrous ‘Primitive and Deadly’

Photo by Samantha Muljat

Photo by Samantha Muljat

Writing about music to which you have a personal connection can have some ups and downs. First, you might tend to look favorably on anything new a band such as this does, which kind of undoes the critical process. That’s the negative, believe it or not. On the other hand, you know what the music feels like to you, what kind of effect you hope it’ll have, and if the new music fills that space in your heart.

Earth is a band like that for me. I know most people gravitate toward Dylan Carlson’s masterful use of the guitar, and it’s not like I don’t, too, but there’s something more there. There is something spiritual and fulfilling that, when I get new Earth music, it’s a chance to unravel other parts of myself perhaps previously guarded. Even going back to their older records, I remember where I was when I first came to know the piece, what I was experiencing, and why it’s become such a big part of me. There have been life struggles, work problems, and other things that Earth’s music has guided me through, and I’ve always been appreciative that their creative force exists. Their new record “Primitive and Deadly” is one that took me through a trip to every section of Earth’s creative cycle, from drone gods to dusty, Americana-bent pioneers, and it has sent me on a journey like no other before it.

tp0004c_SP_DPGate_CoverThis record is Earth exploding as a creative force in a way most people who have grown to love the band (especially over the last half of their run) will be shocked to hear. Carlson, along with longtime collaborator, drummer Adrienne Davies, work alongside bassist Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Sunn 0)))), guitarist Brett Netson (Built to Spill, Caustic Resin), and guitarist Jodie Cox (Narrows) to create a sonic landscape that pushes, taunts, threatens, and warns of cataclysm. This isn’t an easy-on-the-soul Earth record by any means. Adding to the thunder is the inclusion of guest vocalists Mark Lanegan (one of the world’s best, most diverse singers) and the incredible Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows), who both add more color, tumult, and expression to these pieces.

“Torn By the Fox of the Crescent Moon” opens the record with one of the band’s most sinister riffs to date, an indication the darkness has come early and thick and won’t be dissipating soon. The doom spills like blood, with dark keys mixing in, some of that Western-dusted magic the band weaves so well rising, and diverse guitar trickle meeting up and blending in. “There Is a Serpent Coming” is an apocalyptic wonder, with Lanegan’s raspy, world-weary singing painting the song brilliantly. “I see behemoth coming,” he howls, as the band works along him to douse psychedelic wonder over a track that should shake you to your core with its tales of Biblical destruction. “From the Zodiac Light” brings Qazi into the mix, as her haunting, smoky vocals sprawl out over this slowly burning piece. “It’s all over now, there’s no need to come down,” she practically chants, sounding both alluring and threatening. Later when she calls, “The devil’s got you,” along with swirling, churning music, you really do think your soul has taken a boat ride down a dark river to hell. Incredible song.

“Even Hell Has Its Heroes” goes back to steely, bone-munching riffs, marching along with cool melody lines, fiery playing, and mind-altering composition, complete with chimes and bells. The song builds a wall of noise that eventually dissipates, like an engine slowly petering out. “Rooks Across the Gates” takes its time, meandering through sun-bleached sections of guitar, washed-out, gritty waves of sound, and Lanegan’s scorched storytelling, at one point ominously noting, “I dropped her in the Eastwoods stream,” which should put a chill up your spine. The track ends in a pit of static, as you sit there wondering what you just heard. It’s riveting. Closer “Badgers Bane” has buzzing, filthy guitar work, and some of those classic Carlson style melodies you know are his even if the record doesn’t say Earth on the spine. The music soars in spots, and noises swoop in and out, eventually giving way to Davies’ drums that lead toward the final section. That’s where guitars stab into the night, a fog rises, and everything is carried out on evil wings to its final, mysterious resting spot.

A quarter century into their run, and Earth remain on a quest for something spiritual, creative, cosmic, maybe all of the three. “Primitive and Deadly” is one of their most exciting adventure in years, a real wakeup call for anyone who thought this band had settled into a comfortable groove and intended to stay there. Carlson, Davies, and the rest of the cast have created something stimulating and true, one of the deadliest collections on their canon. It’s a true pleasure to behold with every visit. Earth show no signs of slowing down or stopping, and that’s a great sign for the future of the world itself.

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