The majority of Earth album reviews follow a similar formula. The opening paragraph recounts the past of Earth leader Dylan Carlson, usually mentioning the words “Cobain,” “shotgun,” “heroin,” and “rehab.” Next follows a summation of the band’s career and references to the brilliance and legacy of “Earth 2.” Finally – after rehashing Wikipedia – the reviewer will get to the album at hand, briefly noting its brilliance and giving it a score between 7 and 8 out of ten.
More wondrous than brevity is when a band executes their vision to near-perfect tolerances. The Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light concept was always going to be a defining moment in the timeline of Earth; a line-up change, the introduction of cello, and the challenge of releasing a thematically coherent suite in two parts. Part I – released one year ago – was a triumph, revealing the Earth vision at perhaps its most coherent. The wait for Part II has been long, almost unnecessarily so for an album that was recorded at the same time as its companion part.
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II perfectly dovetails with its predecessor. Whereas Part I is predominantly riff-based with an improvisatory tinge, Part II feels more unstructured and portrays a very different band. Those familiar with Earth understand Carlson’s guitar style; one that has rarely deviated from ‘clean’ for the duration of Earth’s second beginning. “Sigil of Brass” opens Part II, and feels so textbook Earth that (with the exception of cello) it could have come from any other previous release. However, it superbly introduces “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” – what is undoubtedly the masterwork within a masterwork. On what is only the second track of the album, Carlson starts to sound and feel different. His guitar, usually prominent in the mix, takes a back seat behind a simple bass drone that carries the track for a meandering nine minutes. Also less noticeable is Carlson’s usual modus operandi of variations on a theme. Whilst the song includes the development and expansion of one basic riff, the guitar feels less constructed and even glitchy. One cannot help but listen and ask “is this the spark of a new Earth?”
As for the balance of Part II, all that need really be said is that it is sublime; both in terms of execution and aesthetics.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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