Dylan Carlson visits Western motifs, storytelling on dusky solo offering ‘Conquistador’

Photo by Holly Carlson

There are those artists that need no introduction. If you don’t know them—and I mean this in the least shitty way possible—you need to educate yourself. Metal and heavy music has its share of unquestionable, world-toppling influential artists, and Dylan Carlson is one of those.

If you’ve never heard his drone-doom-Americana band Earth, stop what you’re doing and listen to their entire discography. Seriously, this story will still be there until the Russians fuck up the Internet. He’s a god in flesh to many people, and his work has spawned a ton of disciples that follow his every movement. A mere 50 years into his life, after being a major guiding force for artists including Kurt Cobain and Sunn 0))), Carlson finally is offering up his first solo work under his own name in the form of “Conquistador,” a record that really won’t be a stranger to anyone who drinks from the heavy pool of Earth’s second half that’s immersed in Americana and the American west. This record is an imaginary Western, Carlson says, about a conquistador and his servant as they travel from former Mexican territories (now U.S. states) and the adventures they have. And damn it if you don’t get sucked right in. On top of that, Carlson collaborated here with one of our favorite artists Emma Ruth Rundle (literally wearing one of her T-shirts as I write this), as well as his wife Holly Carlson (who adorns the cover), and it turns into an essential block in the artist’s steady foundation, a record only he could create.

Fittingly, the 13:31-long title track begins the record, and in very un-Earth-like fashion, this is the only epic of the bunch. But this is a different world and experience for Carlson, even though we’re immersed instantly into a Western-style haze that loops and repeats for the duration of its run time. It’s a nice drunken feel the song gives off, as Rundle’s slide guitar splashes echoing ambiance, and the body of the track is moody and steely. Understated melodies mix in during the last quarter, as electric pulses rise, tensions build, and the track spirals off into the orange-purple sky. “When the Horses Were Shorn of Their Hooves” chugs harder at first, with the guitars coming in harsher, and the leads charging its way forward. Melodies bubble over while the guitar work gains steam, and all of that dissipates and bleeds into the reddish soil.

“And Then the Crows Descended” has strange acoustics scraping, sharp noises carving into your psyche, and piercing sounds that give way to a fluttery gasp of chimes. “Scorpions in Their Mouths” is the heaviest track, unloading with a thick drone cloud of static, killer steely riffs, and a pace that keeps rolling through the shadows and into the deep dusk. The lead lines get metallic but also glimmering, and that results in a dizzying trip that slips back into the penetrating drone that started the song. “Reaching for the Gulf” ends our tale with a dreamy pace, as the late afternoon’s transition into evening is complete, and drowsy, sunburned guitars draw in the heat. The song has a mid-summer, after-dark finality to it, as the melodies sleep, guitars snake and slither in the dark, and the whole thing ends in stimulating chimes and sizzling noise.

Carlson’s work is a gift to all who ever encountered his music, and “Conquistador” is another strong entry into an unquestionable resume of amazing creations. The music easily can get you lost in his narrative, as you imagine your own adventures or just take up with the characters here. Carlson is a legend for a good reason. He makes music that is authentic and emotional, and as long as we have him around, we’re going to bask in his incredible light.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/drcarlsonalbion/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/products/dylan-carlson-conquistador-12-vinyl

For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/