'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I' - Earth (6/10)
A metal band with a characteristically un-metal sound, it can be swiftly agreed upon that the American drone music ensemble known as Earth has made quite a shift in their sound over the years. From their early days as pioneers of the burgeoning drone metal scene, Earth has now gravitated towards a more cinematic, psychedelic sound, which some might even liken to post-rock. With Earth's latest output, the band makes little change in their overall sound from the previous album, so while fans of the band can expect no derivation from the existing course, 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light' maintains the quality of their minimalistic, atmospheric drone, although the stylistic repetition and consistently relaxed nature of the album will no doubt lead to some listeners zoning out before long.
True to the title, 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light' deals with parallels; opposites. Despite a generally relaxed, chilled sound to the album that runs throughout the hour or so of music here, Earth does it in such a way that there is always a slightly unsettling, lingering element to the sound. A pleasant groove may be followed along, and suddenly it will meet a strange chord change, a chilling moment of guitar feedback, or added flourish that gives the experience quite a bit more than merely listening to the same repetition over again, as many might think when first hearing the band. It is through this that the album becomes very listenable throughout, although it's true that the album does wear thin after about halfway through. While the first couple of songs are quite interesting and still sound fresh, the album generally starts to lose its steam as the songs get longer. This culminates in the closing title track, which is far too listless and long, ultimately feeling as if it ends the album on a very weak point, and could have been left off of the album entirely.
From the first song (and highlight) 'Old Black' onwards, Earth does not stray far from their granted course; even two minutes in, the listener will know what to expect for the next fifty- eight. Slightly distorted guitars slowly and carefully craft textured riffs that really know how to build well, overtop very relaxed and minimalistic drum work. Throughout much of the album, the use of cello is heavily used to add an extra layer to the sound, an element that Earth hasn't used so generously before this. The sum of the parts ends up sounding like a cinematic soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic Old Western.
Earth may do what they do to perfection, but it's the lack of variety that really does the album in. While it may be the perfect piece of music to crowd around the bong with, a more intent listen goes the show that it is about twice as long as it should be. A relaxing journey this is indeed, but if Earth insists of making a long album, they must warrant it through the music.