Manning Bar, Sydney (19 June 2014)
Metal Obsession journalist, Lilen Pautasso reviews the pioneers of a new and ponderous type of rock ‘n’ roll. During a somewhat tedious show, Lilen discovers that Earth actually has a unique harmonious effect on it’s entranced listeners.
Washington-based duo Earth undoubtedly redefined the populist notion of heavy metal. Bringing to light a new style that is as slow as it is secluded; the band caused a buzz following the release of their debut EP Extra-Capsular Extraction in 1991. But after a few years of playing their original progressive style, the band took it down another notch and transformed from ‘slow’ to ‘snail pace’. This new hybrid (now known as ‘drone metal’) attracts a uniquely diverse crowd not often seen at Sydney’s intimate alternative venue, the Manning Bar.
Since their last visit in 2012, Earth front man (and only constant member) Dylan Carlson spent a lot of his time experimenting with new and ambitious soundscapes that both, complemented and contrasted the core sonic identity of the band. While Earth’s music is often positively defined as ‘lethargic’ and ‘ponderous’, another very suitable description is ‘mysterious’.
Extending musical notes to endless scales, the band championed their own version of musical simplicity through sluggish rhythm, heart pounding bass lines and exhaustively repetitive guitar riffs. What is most interesting about this fusion of rock is the physical impact it has on its audience. With a bare stage and lights that only changed between white and red, Earth purposefully deprived their fans from experiencing anything visually compelling. It was only about the music.
Their emphasis on soundscapes filled the entire bar and fans appeared totally disengaged with their surroundings and intrinsically engaged with the music. It was somewhat of a complete trance or an out-of-body experience that drew people away from their physical environment.
As seen throughout the evening, Carlson’s finesse and guitar style could not be faulted. His friendly demeanour went down favourably with the crowd that cheered every time he made a brief (albeit very rare) address through the microphone. Not to be overlooked, the crowd was also quick to praise the style of bassist Karl Blau and drummer Adrienne Davies. With a drumming style so interesting you could almost purposefully ignore everyone else on stage, Davies was evidently engrossed in the music which she demonstrated through arching movements and a type of ‘delayed’ energy.
As the night drew (slowly) to a close, Earth took a brief leave of absence and returned for one final song – which could have easily felt like three. Ending with a guitar hoisted above his head, Carlson was met with an adoring row of hands and emphatic cheers from his niche group of supporters. This was perhaps the only moment they briefly returned from their everlasting trance.
Whilst not for everyone, Earth is an interesting band that extends the boundaries of simplicity and repetition in a way that isn’t entirely creative, but engaging enough for those that wish to step out of the day-to-day.
© Lilen Pautasso