The twisted brain-wrong of one-off man-mental Harry Armstrong (ex-Decomposed, ex-Hangnail and current End Of Level Boss mainman), aided and abetted by a shadowy cadre of unknown – well, unknown to me anyway – wrong’uns, The Earls Of Mars are, after careful consideration and deep listening to their debut recording The Skies Are Falling!, more than likely not actually Earls but most assuredly 100% definitely of Martian origin, the fucking weirdoes.
Not content boggling minds merely with End Of Level Boss’ spiky melange of Crim-prog and Kyuss-fog, Armstrong has formed The Earls in order to explore a more wilfully eccentric brand of malarkey. The Skies Are Falling! eases us in comparatively gently by containing a mere three tracks ‘pon which to chew and mull – anymore and the risks of Scanners-style head explosions would be exponentially greater.
Opening with jaunty yet sinister looped piano, echoing footsteps and a slowly growing ominous bassline, Cornelius Itchybah sets out The Earls stall very nicely thank you, building from the afore-mentioned opening and into subdued guitar, an oddly martial yet soft drum tattoo and throaty, quavering vocals that swoop from low-key to a full-throated classic rock melodic roar. A distinctly doomed, threatening pall hangs over the track, fully manifesting in the final portion with big glowering chords, surging bass, dark harmonies-a-plenty and full-tilt open-throated vocalising. The lurching, stomping feel of the rhythm combined with the soaring voice and dark atmosphere adds up to a general air not a million miles away from a much less self-consciously ‘wacky’ first-album by System Of A Down – not necessarily a bad thing at that point, as they were still a comparatively original and palatable proposition back then.
Second track, ‘Poor Whores Petition’, kicks in a little harder than the opener and amps up everything that came before to a higher pitch – drums pound and tumble, guitars twist and writhe around one another and Armstrong’s highly individual vocalising is more theatrical, more arch, more venomous and just generally MORE. Buzzing, whirring sci-fi keyboards punctuate the rhythm throughout, further adding to the off-kilter-ness of the track as a whole. For a short track – two and some change minutes, folks – it sure packs a lot in!
Finally, The Earls present ‘The Mirrored Staircase’ for our delectation, a sinister, crawling, undulating number driven by a guitar riff that sounds as though it’s actually snaking backwards and scattered with sparse piano notes. The bass assumes a more audible role here, warmly filling in the gaps between the piano notes, dark chords and the snakey substance of the guitar. Armstrong, once more, belts it out for all he’s worth, really showing his range and control – he knows, crucially, when to augment a musical mood and when to keep his trap shut, something more vocalists should learn, that’s for sure.
Three tracks may not seem like very much with which to establish how a band sounds, but The Earls Of Mars mesh so coherently that The Skies Are Falling! sounds less like the first recordings of a new band attempting to figure out who and what they are and more like the seasoned players that are coming together with one another perfectly naturally to create something honest, something that really must be applauded.
They’re still a bunch of weirdoes though.
Label: Self Released
Scribed by: Paul Robertson