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Black metal bands generally exude some sort of "color." I'm not a synaesthete, but sound and color have always been associated. That is to say, we utilize our senses in tandem with each other to process. Think about it - people discuss how "grey" and dismal Agalloch sounds, Xasthur's black metal releases are characteristically monochromatic, and I feel Masters Hammer has always had a "purple" or regal feel to them. Color, at least in my experience with music, pervades a band's body of work. To change seems strange, and would involve an abandonment of part of a their identity.

Yet Italian atmospheric black metal trio Earth and Pillars is the veritable exception to the rule. Earth I slithered under my radar upon its first release, and it was a glorious thing to miss. Their lush, atmospheric black metal bubbled like brooks and whistled through the leafy branches of a dense, warm forest. It was dense, long-winded, and synthesizer heavy, moving with tremendous footsteps and a wide breadth. Yes, Earth and Pillars was green, and a very earthy one at that.

Two years later, this Italian unit returns with Pillars I, and I was shocked at the sheer temperature difference, but even moreso at how successfully they retained their identity while doing so. Where Earth I felt like a living, growing thing, Pillars I is much more structured, as if it was man-made. Though still mammoth and heavy in atmosphere, these four new tracks are aggressive and menacing, but most of all they appear grey and border on complete barrenness. Lifelessness and grey emptiness are new territory for Earth and Pillars, and yet they more than manage, and with a newfound sense of momentum. The lengthy ambient passages from its predecessor still make grand appearances, but the humid feeling is replaced with dreadful desolation, and their once ecstatic, flowery black metal normalizes and condenses. In a metaphoric sense, Earth and Pillars clear cut the verdant forest they grew in Earth I and built large, looming, lifeless monoliths in Pillars I. In the end, it's still the same band, but rearranged and reinvented, which makes this grey a more unique parallel to Earth and Pillar's originally connoted green.

October 30th marks the release of Earth and Pillars's second manifestation, Pillars I, on Avantgarde Music. Stream all four tracks (don't let the low number fool you, this is a long one) below.

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