Let’s get this out of the way: I ***ing love Earth. In my eyes, Dylan Carlson and co. (whoever that happens to be at a particular time) can do absolutely no wrong. With that in mind, “Pentastar” is an unusual album for the band, a rocking, tasty, pentatonic affair that even features vocals, an album somewhat reminiscent of bands like Kyuss and Sleep. However, when the mighty Earth take on a style, it is not for them to simply rehash what has been done before, and “Pentastar” definitely shows this, with a twisted and noisy take on stoner rock.
The album begins with a true monolith of a riff; the huge and epic rhythm guitar tone that will characterize the album introduces itself from the very beginning. The drums, dry and effective come in, and the mammoth groove begins its crushing pace. Though this is in fact a more rock-oriented album, the drone aesthetic is firmly in place, and throughout the whole opening track only one riff is played. However, this riff is such a behemoth, and it is executed with such exquisite brilliance, that the song carries itself much better than your average stoner jam, the changes being all in the subtleties of sound and dynamics, never in the notes themselves. The second song “High Command,” is very similar to the opening tune, with the exception of a few vocals, which are soft and repetitive. Earth take their drone ideas into a rock aesthetic, and come out with a wildly successful, and brutally heavy album.
Things calm down a bit for “Crooked Axis For String Quartet”, a short and effective interlude with a bit of an ambient vibe that serves as a nice rest between the pummeling tracks. The reason why this record works so well is not because of a valiant amount of originality or inventiveness, but because of simply outstanding performances and sound. The rhythm section is gargantuan, tight and pummeling behind Carlson’s playing, which is nothing short of divinely inspired. His riffs, as always, are second to none, testaments true absolute heaviness, and his solos rip with a reckless, rocking abandon that no one else could have pulled off in 1996.
Of course, the album is not without its share of experimental moments: the aforementioned “Crooked Axis,” as well the wonderful “Sonar and Depth Charge”: a super minimalistic interlude played by a grand piano which suddenly interrupts the rocking barrage of “Peace in Mississippi.” These little interludes provide a nice contrast from the riff-based meat of the album, and prevent things from ever getting tedious or boring, strange as that may sound for a band known for 30 minute walls of feedback. The album ends up where it started, with that monster of a riff that is “Coda Maestoso in F (flat) Minor,” slightly altered this time around, with some dreamy guitars in the background, only to end with a guitar solo worthy of the Gods themselves, a magnificent affair of pure ***ing metal. “Coda Maestoso” is the sound of old-school metal, (Sabbath, Rainbow, Pentagram), as filtered through the lens of an experimental and challenging band, that is not however, afraid to rock.
Overall, “Pentastar” is a magisterial album: heavy, groovy and powerful while still carrying interest for the listener that perhaps asks from his or her music than just a good time. Earth take their love of Sabbath (noticeable even in the interludes, which somehow echo those on “Master of Reality”), mix it in with their droning tendencies and their keen sense of dynamics and give us the masterpiece we call “Pentastar: In The Style of Demons.”