Local Wire

Earth @ Rhythm Room

Seattle band Earth's progression from instrumental drone-metal negativists to tempered electric Americana drone artists has been as natural and languid as the band's riffs. Led by guitarist Dylan Carlson — the only constant member in the band's nearly 20-year run — the group formed in the early '90s, inspiring legions of experimental doom and drone bands with suffocatingly thick efforts like Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version and Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions. The records' darkness was all-consuming, and it took nine years for Carlson to follow up 1996's Pentastar: In the Style of Demons, overcoming legal and addiction issues in the process. The resulting album, Hex, or the Infernal Printing Method, marked the beginning of the greatest second act in underground rock. The riffs were still there, but Carlson's subdued Telecaster and the solid footing afforded by drummer Adrienne Davies (who's been a constant in the band since) found the band expanding outward onto vast mythic Western plains, with the bloody lyricism of novelist Cormac McCarthy acting as the unheard guiding inspiration of the band. The mix of country, drone, jazz, gospel, and folk was no less heavy than the inner-space devotions of yore, but you'd have a hard time classifying it as "metal." The band's maintained a steady clip since: 2008's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull was a biblical masterpiece, featuring the work of jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Vol. 1 and 2 (released in 2011 and 2012, respectively) further showcase masterful growth, incorporating minimal funk and subtle nods to English folk rock groups like Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Vol. 2's highlight, closer "The Rakehell," fills an entire side of the record and plays like The Meters jamming with Black Sabbath and Ry Cooder (recorded in slow motion).

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.