Reviews Earth Primitive & Deadly

Earth

Primitive & Deadly

In a career lasting some two and a half decades at this point, Earth has gained near-legendary status and plenty of critical acclaim for making expansive drone masterpieces. Over the years though, the band has mellowed out a bit: by the time The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull came along in 2008, the group had incorporated melodic elements similar to those of southern rock into their basic song formula. Sporting gorgeous sleeve art, 2014’s Primitive and Deadly again finds the band experimenting with new elements or, perhaps more accurately, becoming reacquainted with old ones. This is the first album since 1996 to feature vocals, but the results are somewhat uneven in the same way that 2006’s Altar collaboration between Sunn o))) and Boris was. While Primitive and Deadly at times has a methodical intensity about it that positions it alongside the band’s best work, more often it seems unfocused and a bit tiresome. This, of course, is precisely what one doesn’t want out of the hypnotic genre of drone metal: though this music has a tendency to put listeners into a trance-like state due to the continual repetition of overpowering sounds, it shouldn’t put them to sleep.

Opening track “Torn from the Fox of the Crescent Moon” kicks the album off with grinding bass and a cackling, evil-sounding guitar melody, all playing out to one of the band’s trademark slack tempos. The piece has a few distinct sections, including one fantastically hopeful counter-melody that occasionally pops up amid jangling individual guitar tones as well as a crashing, more doom-laden one. Still, there doesn’t seem to be enough going on to justify a nine-minute piece that offers no genuine payoff at the end; the piece establishes a gloomy mood just fine, but doesn’t have an honest sense of purpose. “There is a Serpent Coming” features resonant and ominous vocals from Queens of the Stone Age collaborator Mark Lanegan sounding out over an almost Middle Eastern guitar melody and another extremely slow and deliberate rhythm. The lyrics here make the track seem like a warning or prophecy, which is appropriate given the musical accompaniment, but it’s the following track that I think makes the best use of vocals. Rabia Shaheen Qazi provides the guest vocals on the the bluesy and psychedelic “From the Zodiacal Light.” Qazi’s vocals are slightly echoed and shrieky on top of the thudding instrumental parts, and the track’s optimistic but ambiguous finale seems agreeable after an eleven-and-a-half-minute journey to get there.

The instrumental “Even Hell Has its Heroes” features a chorus of guitars carving out intricate melodies and erupting into solos over clanging church bells and a mass of grating bass. This is probably the most complex track here in terms of how many instruments are playing at any given time, and it plays sort of like a sluggish solo section from a loud rock song. “Rooks Across the Gates,” again featuring Lanegan on vocals, is a bit more purposeful than the previous track he was heard on, with intermittent guitar solos bellowing out above the roaring background ambiance. During the verse, Lanegan’s rich baritone vocals creep on top of the minimal rhythm elements offered up by drummer Adrienne Davies before the piece fizzles out at its conclusion. Vinyl-only bonus instrumental “Badgers Bane” may be the one track which offers up the most distinct individual sections during its twelve-and-a-half-minute duration. The main melody here is a fairly warm guitar progression, but at several points during the track, the guitar drops out and is replaced by a sort of gurgling, quietly humming death rattle that’s heard over the ongoing, agonizingly slow drum beat. The resulting track is fairly unsettling to listen to, almost seeming to capture the moments in which life slows down as death approaches.

In the end, the name Primitive and Deadly seems to describe this solemn album exceedingly well, though I don’t think the music quite lives up to all the promise that title might imply. It’s a good album, but not a great one, seeming a bit uninspired, as if the band wasn’t quite able to entirely incorporate the vocals in with their songwriting concepts and ideas. I did on the other hand appreciate the change-up that these vocals added to Earth’s basic song formula, and since the tempo never rises above a crawl, the tracks here work quite well in context with one another. Ultimately, while Primitive and Deadly may not be among Earth’s best albums, I think most fans would find it satisfactory at the very least. For those who enjoy this type of music, it’s definitely worth a listen - at maximum volume.

7.5 / 10Andy
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7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

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