Review: Earth ‘Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version’ [Reissue]

Olympia, Washington drone metal outfit Earth formed in 1989 and took their title from Black Sabbath’s original name. Dylan Carlson, the band’s main man, will be familiar to some for being a close friend of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and for featuring in Nick Broomfield’s infamous 1998 documentary Kurt and Courtney.

Earth 'Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version' Artwork
Earth ‘Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version’ Artwork

Following 1991’s debut Extra-Capsular Extraction EP, the band had a change in personnel with Joe Preston departing to join the Melvins and slimmed down to a duo with the aforementioned Carlson on guitar and Dave Harwell on bass. It’s hard to believe Earth were signed to Sub Pop seeing as how they were a far cry from the grunge that was the label’s bread and butter at that time. The album’s cover art features three horses, a pitched tent, green earth and a mass of blue sky, a panoramic scene which you could say suits the expansive nature of the music.

Speaking of which, Seven Angels opens the release and is the album’s shortest track at a mere fifteen minutes and thirty-five seconds. Despite all that is made of the band being pioneers of drone doom, there are nevertheless some meaty riffs here, as heavy as what bands like Slayer and Morbid Angel were producing at the time, albeit slowed down to half speed. If the concept behind minimalism was to strip music back to its bare essentials, then this opener does exactly that bringing to mind the likes of composers such as La Monte Young and Terry Riley. This all makes for an exceptional opener and one with the capacity to captivate as much as it did the first time around.

Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, despite being a little mellower and atmospheric, is no less powerful. Instead of the comparatively straight-forward (and I use that word very loosely) crunchier metallic riffing of its predecessor, you are instead met with layer after layer of blissfully glorious feedback which, if you aren’t listening diligently enough to, would be easy to lose track of.

Earth 2 however is ground zero, not just for the band but also the drone doom genre they helped pioneer…

Metal can sometimes make the mistake of trying to relentlessly pummel you into submission with mere speed and aggression, Earth instead demonstrates a far more nuanced approach to doing this and it’s just as effective; so much so that the danger of suffering a sensory overload becomes a very real prospect. Or to quote the promotional notes, they ‘ride the slow changes like celestial surfers who have descended from their Mount Olympus perch, patient and powerful and purposeful’.

The album’s longest track, it’s magnus opus if you will, Like Gold And Faceted clocks in at thirty minutes twenty-one seconds and features percussion courtesy of Joe Burns from the Seattle crust/hardcore bands Aspirin Feast and Laceration. Burns‘ inclusion is a head-scratcher seeing as there is none of the righteous fury and musical busyness of the scene he comes from present in Earth‘s world.

Truth is, Burns‘ contribution to the track comes in the form of percussion and feels intentionally incidental, acting as the perfect backdrop to Carlson and Harwell whose guitar and bass bleed into one another to forge what is the album’s most uncompromising and challenging listen. If you find Lou Reed’s controversial and derided Metal Machine Music ‘a bit much’, then this will positively make your head explode. For me though, it’s a masterpiece.

Thirty years on and Earth‘s sound has since evolved to incorporate a number of other influences. Earth 2 however is ground zero, not just for the band but also the drone doom genre they helped pioneer. An essential release for doomheads and experimental music fans alike.

Label: Sub Pop
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Scribed by: Reza Mills