There are plenty of bands that have been around longer than Earth, and of those there are more than a handful that have proved just as influential over the decades, yet there’s still something so truly majestic about every album, such a cause for celebration with each tour, that it’s hard to find anyone to actually compare them to. It could be down to their subtle but gradual evolution over the years, Dylan Carlson’s unlikely rock god status or simply a celebration of everything they’ve come to represent in their 30-year career but no matter the reason, people here seem pretty stoked to have them back.
It’s not the first time in town for Helen Money either, but it does feel like the first time that she hasn’t arrived in the company of Steve Albini. As such, she seems slightly hesitant at first but when her cello first erupts in a tidal swell of distortion, she has the room right where she wants them – cowering in a mix of respect, awe and maybe a little fear. When the volume is dialled up to its peak, she’s able to channel a level of intensity that brings to mind former label mate Leviathan, but even this represents a small fraction of her ability. Her forays into chamber music territory bristle with claustrophobic tension and the breadth of her technique and tone, combined with a small but well-utilised arsenal of samples that include pounding tribal percussion and haunting piano interludes, make her set less of a suite or collection of songs than the score to an apocalypse yet to arrive. It’s unfortunate that she only has a support slot-sized stretch of time to work with, but at least she used what she was allotted to incredible effect.
The arrival of Earth is a breath of clean, bracing air in comparison. The now-trio of Dylan Carlson, Adrienne Davies and touring guitarist Tristan Jemsek take up their places with minimal fuss, and don’t so much explode into Cats On The Briar as they coax it into the open air. Carlson’s rock star posturing (complete with now-obligatory aviator shades) seems at odds with its even, reflective pace at first, but as its natural swagger and groove starts to take form, the coolness clicks into place. A man of few words, he’s always been one to let his guitar do most of the talking and tonight it’s talking trash with the best of them. It practically screams out the stop-start blues of The Colour Of Poison with a vigour that’s been kept well under control since the days of Pentastar, and Descending Belladonna likewise marks a return to a sound of old, this time more redolent of the lush textures of The Bees Made Honey…
Lest anyone forget that Earth is more than one man alone (even if he’s come to define it), Adrienne Davies provides a backbone that guides the flow, tempo and mood of the set with steady, practiced ease. Every hit is delivered with a loose power that owes more to their blues forefathers than anything on the doomier side of the spectrum, and her immersion in every riff makes her look like a maestro conducting a gargantuan Ride Of The Valkyries. Likewise, Jemsek makes his mark throughout, though in a more understated fashion. By having him on hand to complement Carlson, it allows for a richer sound and greater musical scope, especially when it comes to the few forays into soloing that creep in from time to time.
It’s only at the final hurdle where the trio start to drift away from their newer material, even if the final pairing of The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull and a now-obligatory Old Black take up a fair chunk of their 90-minute set. Though they are technically diversions from a template, the new dynamic works its magic on both cuts and they soon take on a bright immediacy that’s equals parts reimagining and reinvigoration. Together, they form a monolithic comedown to an evening that has only cemented their legendary status. Actually, scratch that – legends are best left in the past to bask in half-remembered glories. Earth’s charms are still evident and are being rewritten even now, and that’s nowt short of a miracle.