In nearly 30 years of existence, Earth have almost single-handedly invented and reinvented drone metal. This is just as true on their latest, and seventeenth, album Full Upon Her Burning Lips, released May 24th via Sargent House. (Find all sorts of streaming and digital purchase options right here while physical copies and other merch is here.)
The sheer amount of restraint shown by drone artists is incredibly impressive. There’s often a sense of being an inch away from letting loose and charging the listeners down with galloping riffs. Instead, what we get with the new Earth album is a restrained atmospheric offering that almost effortlessly evokes the wilderness of the Americas.
The bluesy opener “Datura’s Crimson Veils” unfurls over the course of its twelve-minute run time, almost as if someone’s taken the heaviest Grateful Dead jam sessions, made them even heavier, and turned the tempo down to a crawl. The primary riff from guitarist Dylan Carlson snakes its way through the song, deconstructed into its constituent parts and plucked delicately throughout while psychedelic effects swirl around it. This is all kept grounded by the impeccable drumming of Adrienne Davies, exercising the most restraint I’ve ever heard from a drummer. It’s one thing to be able to play at breakneck speeds, but to play not just slowly but consistently slowly is another thing entirely (there’s a reason Sunn O))) don’t have a drummer). Here lies the astonishing strength of the album – it’s just those two making that music.
We’re not sure about “The Colour of Poison” but it seems dark.
Where previous albums like the excellent The Bees Made Honey In the Lion’s Skull had a piano and other instruments helping to round out the melodies and make for a richer sound overall, Full Upon Her Burning Lips is just Carlson and Davies playing together. And what music they make. The sprawling riffs, patient drumming, and excellent atmospherics on display all showcase the band’s capacity for innovation.
Mixing the doom and fuzz of early Black Sabbath on a sonic palette that takes in broad swathes of southern-USA’s country/folk/blues scene, Full Upon Her Burning Lips is an expansive summary of the band’s more recent discography. The main riff of “Datura’s Crimson Veils” recalls that of “Rise To Glory” from TBHMITLS, but shorn of the piano embellishments. The album exhibits all the heaviness of Carlson’s solo output, particularly 2018’s Conquistador, but with a much cleaner and softer sound, foregoing the harsher edge of feedback this time. The opening bass notes of “Descending Belladonna” feel particularly psychedelic as they roll over the listener: you can almost feel the sound wave emanating from the speakers.
The beauty, brains and musical braun behind the sounds that are Earth:
That southern-blues sonic template means the album also feels like a love letter to the wide-open spaces of the USA. Just imagine staring out at the plains of the Midwest while “Exaltation of Larks” plays softly in the background, or enjoying a lush sunset and a cold beer to the softer tones of “A Wretched Country of Dusk.” This is the other magic of Earth: they can easily evoke an atmosphere without putting too much into the synth effects. With the carefully constructed melodies with just the right amount of hazy reverb and feedback, the listener is whisked away to a swirling, psychedelic demi-monde of summer heat and autumnal colours.
Drone is a genre that requires patience, and I’ll confess my own was tested at times listening to this album. But, inch by inch, note by carefully-plucked note, I’ve become a convert to Earth’s style. Carlson’s riffs on Full Upon Her Burning Lips may sprawl, but thanks to the patient drumming of Davies, the music never becomes too convoluted or overlong. Set yourself down on the porch, get the speakers going, and let the sunset wash over you with this as its soundtrack. Pure magic.
Full Upon Her Burning Lips Track Listing:
01. Datura’s Crimson Veils
02. Exaltation of Larks
03. Cats On The Briar
04. The Colour of Poison
05. Descending Belladonna
06. She Rides An Air Of Malevolence
07. Maiden’s Catafalque
08. An Unnatural Carousel
09. The Mandrake’s Hymn
10. A Wretched Country of Dusk
Release Date: May 24, 2019
Record Label: Sargent House
Stream the entirety of Full Upon Her Burning Lips thanks to the radness that is Bandcamp: