Olympia, Washington’s archetypal doom rock band Earth stopped by (le) poisson rouge in the West Village to barrage a packed house of memorized fans with that distinctive deluge of sonic wailing. This band is the OG mad scientist of the whole genre of drone metal that first bubbled up in the Pacific Northwest in the late 80’s. This sound is well known for overpowering waves of slowly building, loudly undulating, and sonically blaring compositions often stretched out over exceedingly long songs. This style has encountered a big resurgence of popularity recently with bands like Sunn O))), Sleep, Yob, and many others seemingly ruling the present-day metal world. This project’s mastermind composer and guitarist Dylan Carlson started his minimalistic instrumental experiments at a flashpoint of modern music and had a big influence on many of the day’s leading artists and genres; however, he is still often more known for his tight friendship with Kurt Cobain back in the day not to mention having originally purchased the gun that was used in his suicide. After that crushing tragedy, he retreated from the public spotlight for several years to clean up and get straight, but he started Earth back up again in 2000, and that’s when his present partner in crime Adrienne Davies joined him on drums, and the two continue to make a powerful combo.
Opening the show was a real surprise knockout of a band in the form of the Seattle sludge metal trio of Helms Alee. I’ve been hearing about this band for several years, but I always ended up missing them, and now I know I’ll never make that mistake again. The band is comprised of the roaring guitarist and vocalist Ben Verellen, bassist and vocalist Dana James, and the versatile and commanding drummer Hozoji Margullis, who I found myself fascinated with. I was surprised to learn that in her off time she works as a commercial clam diver for the western Washington State Puyallup tribe. Their latest volcanic album is called Noctiluca, which is a kind of bioluminescent marine algae that glows when excited, and Hozoji actually keeps a beaker of this radiant slime beside her bed at night. In short, she leads a downright awe-striking life that leaves me awestruck on both sides of the drum kit. Their songs also work on the slow burn method of drone metal, but they often swell out of the drone, crawl out of the sludge, and erupt into full-on thrash at times, and the whole process can be a thrill to watch unfold.
Most of the Earth set was the mostly just the new album, a move that might have bummed some fans, but most of the crowd seemed mostly fazed out by a combination of deeply vibrating brain pans, extreme tinnitus effects, and a growing passiveness that grew and brainwashed more and more with each of the massively glacial tracks stretching out with hypnotizing elegance. Later in the set I did catch at least a couple somewhat older tracks thrown into the mix, like the title track from their The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull album from ‘08 and “Old Black” from 2011’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I, but nothing from their early work. Still, Carlson has always been about the slow and steady artistic evolution that, much like most of his songs, may lose the way sometimes, but by the time he reaches the end, he makes you find yourself right where you left off.
Article: Dean Keim