Doom Tectonics: Earth & YOB

Earth - Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord, 2014)Earth – Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord)
Earth and YOB are two bands that I’ve admired for years. Earth’s flawed but groundbreaking Extra-Capsular Extraction (Sub Pop, 1991) influenced drone-doom just as much as Slint and My Bloody Valentine influenced other genres that year. Like our planet’s drifting continental plates, they evolved just as gradually as the early instrumental tracks seemed to unfold, experimenting with many styles, ending up with a sort of world-weary, cactus-dry Americana on their past few albums. While requiring a bit of patience, most of their albums are pretty rewarding. But in their explorations, there was also an emotional distance that was such a given, I never even though to wonder, “what if…” Dylan Carlson did, however. After the extremely laid back acoustic based Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Vols. 1 & 2 (2011-12), recorded while Carlson was dealing with some health issues, he’s ready to rock out with his cock out. Or at least write and record with more focus an energy than ever before.

Fans may recall that the last time Earth was truly heavy and used vocals was on Pentastar: in the Style of Demons (Sub Pop, 1996). That wasn’t a bad album, but Primitive And Deadly is far more satisfying. It was recorded at Rancho De La Luna, the Joshua Tree desert studio famous for Queens of the Stone Age, Nebula, The Desert Sessions and Mark Lanegan. A longtime friend of the band going back 25 years when his band Screaming Trees was also on Sub Pop, Lanegan was a great choice for a guest vocalist on two of the tracks. His background in dusty Americana-noir and heavy psych brought all the right baggage to “There Is A Serpent Coming,” as if he took some peyote, wandered into the desert and channeled Jim Morrison’s spirit. Slow, heavy and steady “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” refers back to “Ouroboros is Broken” from the first album, but much more engaging, achieving a perfect balance of heavy, throbbing bass, courtesy of  Bill Herzog of  Sunn O))), droning guitar fuzz and slow moving riffs.

“From the Zodiacal Light,” features Rabia Shabeen Qazi, vocalist from the up and coming heavy psych band Rose Windows. Here Jex Thoth is a key influence, with Qazi shining some light through the doomy haze, even if it is just a wobbly blacklight glow. The longest track at 11:29, it sits right in the middle of the album as the centerpiece.  “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” is even better than the first instrumental, with its circular melodic hook augmented by some inspired jams from Carlson. Lanegan returns for the finale in “Rooks Across the Gates,” invoking a powerfully sundazed atmosphere laced with a loaded coctail of anguish and resignation.

YOB - Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot, 2014)YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)
I’ve been impressed by YOB’s albums going back to Elaborations of Carbon (2002). They have always striven to make their cosmic, sludgy doom sound different than everyone. They’re not exactly what you’d call a good time, but to draw a parallel with post-punk, neither are PiL’s Metal Box/Second Edition (1979), Joy Division’s Closer (1980) or The Cure’s Pornography (1982). On their seventh album, YOB has finally achieved a comparable emotional devastation. Some fans would cite The Great Cessation (2009) or even Catharsis (2003) as achieving such heights, but they felt too distant to me.

It opens with “In Our Blood,” at nearly 17 minutes. It exudes the confidence of Mike Sheidt’s growing vocal repertoire, hitting some eerie high notes. After the spacey bridge with a subtle psychedelic undertone, he storms back with some mighty screams for the rest of the cut. “Nothing to Win”, raises the intensity with a pounding, sludgy rhythm, while “Unmask the Sceptre” is more cosmic. Influences from Sleep and labelmates Neurosis and Ufomammut can be heard in a way that doesn’t distract from the fact that this album might very well be their signature statement. YOB have become more intense and more psychedelic, as if they’ve been destined.

All this comes together best on “Marrow,” both the album’s climax and highlight. Elements of post-rock and prog are integrated flawlessly in their most ambitious song. It also happens to have Sheidt’s best vocal performance, reaching melodic heights he’d never attempted before, not to mention harmonies! A unique doom band that impressed from a distance, YOB has finally moved me. With such powerful performances, they just might be able to move continental land masses if you leave it on repeat for a few million years.

Also out this week. These were unceremoniously plopped into digital existence with little advanced warning.

Ice Dragon – Seeds From A Dying Garden – Boston psych/doomsters get pastoral on their umpteenth album. After an unusually long gap between albums (nearly a full year), I hoped they’d actually go to a real studio. Same basement quality, but still great music.

Bloodnstuff – Bloodnstuff (Fuzzorama) – Great Minneapolis based hard fuzz rock actually self-released their debut in 2012, but was reissued on Truckfighters’ label this week.

Slow Motion Rider – Slow Motion Rider (Committee To Keep Music Evil) – LA Psych. I’ll write more next time! | Buy

The Grand Astoria – La Belle Epoque (Vuktyl) – Russian stoner rockers get proggy.

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