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Earth – Primitive and Deadly

In their near quarter century of existence, Earth have pushed continents’ worth of sound to the edges of, well, the Earth. 2011 and 2012 saw the release of the towering Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I and its sequel Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II, crushing all expectations following the artful expanse of 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull. 2014 yields to Earth at their most Primitive and Deadly, their eighth album, a five-song mass of stoner-rock, strung intricately with traces of country mourning and psychedelic flourish. As is appropriate for Earth, the collection is all-consuming, an instrumental girth that roars wearily over its weight, like a collapsing star, lonely and frozen in the radiance of hatching into a supernova.

“Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” opens Primitive and Deadly like a sinking body weightlessly plummeting through the twinkling of aquatic jetsam, a micro-cosmos rotating into a fully bloomed galactic maelstrom. Never fast, the track wobbles patiently on its axis, sustained by the guitars but threatened by the shrouded elegance of their singing, implying a sinister undertow capable of drowning the fledgling spiral. Primitive and Deadly is the first Earth record in 18 years to feature vocals, the last being Pentastar: In the Style of Demons. Second track, “There is a Serpent Coming,” nearly severs the mystique conjured by “Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon” with its use of vocals courtesy of Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan. At times his contributions meld seamlessly into the song’s verdant landscape, while at times it shreds it with lashes of barren emptiness. Behind Lanegan, Earth manages by track’s end to overcome him, escalating their riffs into atmospheric splendor.

“From the Zodiacal Light” is a psychedelic wave that crushes, gently coursing beneath itself with an undercurrent like fingers dancing liberally through paint. The addition of Rabia Shaheen Qazi of Rose Windows, a fellow Washington psych outfit, augments this slowly churning current, adding a shimmer amidst the purposeful murk. Qazi’s vocals glide like a knife through the track’s ebbing waves, winding into an elegant curvatures only to twist abruptly into angular torment. “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” is a wordless gesture towards the bleak horizon, like nails clawing towards a setting sun that cloaks itself deeper and deeper into shadow. “Rooks Across the Gate” is the following sunrise attempting to wrestle itself free of a vice-like twilight that is Lanegan’s vocals, though here they are less jarring and distracting as on “There is a Serpent Coming.” As the mystic crush birthed by the track’s swirling moments falls, Primitive and Deadly closes with tender, colossal force, fading out like a suffocating sun.

— Bruce Hardt

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