Doom pioneers Earth swagger back with leaner, dusky spirits on ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’

Photo by Holly Carlson

Stripping things back to basics can be a cathartic way to cut out the clutter, expunge anything that’s been building up that needs to be cleared away. Earth’s core duo of guitarist Dylan Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies felt that was something they needed to do when approaching their new record “Full Upon Her Burning Lips,” which is just about in our laps.

We haven’t gotten a new full-length from the legendary Earth since 2014’s “Primitive and Deadly,” and in that time, Carlson and Davies decided to pull back the reins, lift up the layers of sound they’ve applied to their music (quite successfully, obviously), and go back to basics. “Fall Upon Her Burning Lips” definitely sounds leaner and more back-to-roots than records such as the dual “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light” or even “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull,” though you definitely can hear strains of what went into those pieces of work. But here, there’s more concentration on the slow-dripping riffs that encircle and encompass these songs, and Davies playing is a lot more prominent, as she guides these tracks from start to finish, becoming a great, backbone-like presence. The record almost works like two halves, each started by mammoth songs, and then followed by tracks shorter than what’s we’ve come to expect from Earth the past decade or so but that also given plenty of space to become fuller beings. It’s a hearty record, one that feels familiar pretty much right away.

“Datura’s Crimson Veils” is the 12:16 opener that has guitars jolting and buzzing, with the melody slinking through, meeting up with Davies’ driving beat. The track takes on a dark, yet sunburnt feel, with the main riff rolling back around again and again, cutting through the haze. The track begins to buzz and flutter late, with psyche vibes arriving and the track pulsating out. “Exaltation of Larks” is a quick one, running 3:20, feeling almost like an interlude. Warm trickling wets the dirt, and then guitars seem to surge into the night sky, turning toward “Cats on the Briar” that simmers at the front end. A nice, calming melody expands its presence, as winds blow into the scene, and the track mystifies as it eases along. Feeling psychedelic and dusty, the track bends some, rings out, and then bleeds into the dark. “The Colour Of Poison” has a start-stop pace, with Davies snapping her kit over Carlson’s witchy guitar work. A dirty riff then sinks in its teeth, as the drums steady the pace, and then things seem to end abruptly, only to have the guitars re-emerge, slicing through steel on its way out. “Descending Belladonna” feels trippy right away, with the bass sliding, and a dreamy, nostalgic feel to the music. The playing sends odd jolts, while Davis clangs and wrecks your balance, the body and mind is numbed, and the track quivers into the dark.

“She Rides an Air of Malevolence” pops open the second half, a 11:28-long dirge that reverberates with percussion strikes and the guitars setting an ominous tone. The riffs then heat up and melt stone, while a serenity also is achieved as the heat intensifies. Feedback rises as the riffs float, while noise spits behind the main melody line as the track breathes its last. “Maidens Catafalque” also is interlude-esque, running 2:49 and gently flowing, creating a strange ambiance, as guitars sneak, and the drums and cymbals crash in unison. “An Unnatural Carousel” is moody at first, but then it feels like everything is basking in afternoon sunshine, albeit in the middle of the desert. Cool air finally arrives, while leathery riffs work their way in, leaving rough trails as it backs out of the room. “The Mandrake’s Hymn” has riffs slinking and a cool, calculated stomp through the evening, as the music crawls through the shadows. The drumming pops and keeps everything humming, while the track burns its last exhaust in steely glory. “A Wretched Country Of Dusk” ends the record with sorrow bleeding out and a surreal visionscape unfurling in front of you. The guitars manage to char rubber, as the riffs round through, the sounds smear blood and oil, and everything ends in a trance-like state.

Over three decades, Earth have dipped into thick drone, delved into Americana, and have become a dusty trailblazer telling stories strictly through their instruments. On “Fall Upon Her Burning Lips,” the band delivers one of its most intimate, swaggering records in their catalog, and it doesn’t take long until these songs start growing inside you. It’s great to hear Earth alive, well, and still delivering powerful music that no artists have ever been able to duplicate.

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