Review Summary: No one does drone quite like Mr. Carlson does. This is one of Earth's best efforts yet.
I’ve always wondered what’s it like to be Dylan Carlson. Being revered by fans of underground music and creating a legendary album, the man must have one big ego. The thing is, he has every right to be. He continues to make sprawling western epics in the drone genre under the name of Earth. This new CD isn’t an exception either. Mr. Carlson doesn’t seem to do this to please fans. It seems he truly enjoys making this sort of music. Who could blame him? It’s some of the most wonderful music in modern times that manages to be musically talented while still being pleasing to the listener’s ear. For that, Carlson should receive an award. Hell, for this he should receive an emmy and here’s why.
Earth have made such a progression in music it’s hard to find any sort of complaint with them. Sure you could say that they’re not heavy, that Earth has changed up their sound too much, or that Earth isn’t even metal. Then again, no one really cares what your opinion is, because Earth are still kicking ass in a slow and loud manner. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Part 1
is the first in a two part series of albums. It may not sound like there was a huge change in sound from the previous album, but there was actually quite the change up. The melodies here are more inspired by folk than jazz, and there is the inclusion of a new instrument while keeping it minimalist. Angels
really stands as the best release of 2011 so far.
The variety in instrumentation really keeps things interesting. Within is a somber sounding cello playing haunting melodies in the background while a largely clean toned guitar jams out slow, voluminous notes. The spaghetti western vibe is still maintained throughout, with grandiose, Ennio Morricone-esque moments. Lots of slow chord progressions and twangy guitars dominate. Even the cello, mostly restricted to background drones, comes in and plays some wild west-themed music. What is surprising is how well the new folk influences are incorporated, with many spacious, minor key melodies clashing against an empty, airy background. There’s even some slowed down, 60’s style prog-rock playing, with odd timings and complex chords. It really gives the sense that Dylan Carlson doesn’t just improvise his songs on the spot.
I was really surprised at how much inclusion the drums had. On past Earth albums, they were relegated to being part of the background. Now the drums carry much more rhythm and weight with simple kick to bass drum patterns. The drums add to the music in that it’s not just glacial drone anymore; it’s something else entirely. Song wise a couple of songs blended into each other, particularly the last two tracks. Hell’s Winter
and the title track have fairly similar guitar parts. They carry on into each other like one continuous theme. Other than that, the other songs stand out fairly well from each other, with each one trying new ideas while retaining elements of old.
Angels of Darkness
is infinitely too similar to the last two Earth cds. It’s got the dusty western vibe of Hex, and the melodic, song-based approach of Bees. It certainly tries some new ideas, such as the inclusion of a cello and more rhythmic drumming, but overall it seems Earth have found a comfort zone lying somewhere between Jazz, Americana, and old western music. In the end, it’s this comfort zone that Dylan Carlson, and fans are most familiar with. Never trying to be too daring and never plaguing itself with too much repetition, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Part 1
is a commendable effort and here’s to part 2.