When guitarist Dylan Carlson formed Earth in Olympia, Washington in the midst of Seattle’s exploding grunge scene in 1989, the band would go on to be the pioneers of a sound known to many as drone doom. Derivative of more traditional doom metal and taking their name from Black Sabbath‘s original moniker, Earth delivers an experimental, minimalist vision filled to the brim with stark atmospherics and repetitive structures. Beginning as a two-piece, the band’s early sound was deeply rooted in the influence of Seattle’s own masters of chaos, The Melvins. After a hiatus, Earth resurfaced with a somewhat transformed style, two bassists (one being one-time Melvins member and later High On Fire bassist, Joe Preston) and a drummer, with songs bearing slivers of country and jazz.
Outside of Earth’s musical endeavors, Carlson is perhaps best known as one of Nirvana front man (and Earth collaborator) Kurt Cobain’s closest friends, as well as the man who purchased the gun that would eventually be linked to the grunge star’s suicide. While many seem to be able to only gravitate around that friendship when Carlson arises in conversation, Earth should most definitely be recognized as an independently strong machine, regardless of Cobain’s presence and the band has managed to carry on, as evident in their catalog of work to this date. Southern Lord, in all of their gracious glory, has just reissued Earth’s first powerful efforts for our listening pleasure.
The material heard on A Bureaucratic Desire For Extra-Capsular Extraction (Southern Lord) first saw the light of day in 1991, after a recording session in Portland, Oregon at Smegma Studios. Although completed, the record has never really been heard in its entirety until, throughout time and many struggles, the final, grand product now graces our ears. Largely instrumental, the record contains only two songs possessing a vocal performance – “Bureaucratic Desire For Revenge” (featuring Kelly Canary’s screaming-eagle-from-Hell approach) and “Divine and Bright”, an affectionate tribute to the hydrogen bomb, graced with lead vocals by Mr. Cobain himself. The songs are all fairly lengthy, plodding along at a slow pace, like a blindfolded, sleepy giant trudging over villages, leaving all crushed in his wake. “Ouroboros Is Broken” is easily the record’s most epic, in terms of time, clocking in at just over eighteen minutes. Meanwhile, “German Dental Work” wears a cloak that fans of The Melvins will find familiar, as it resembles that band’s slower paced work. That number, as well as “Geometry Of Murder”, showcase the band’s dual bass technique and ethereal droning (maybe even stoner in some areas) riffing and the steady beats of a drum machine with a truly marvelous effect on the eardrum. This reissue was mastered by Mel Dettmer (Wolves In The Throne Room, Sleep, Zoroaster) and breathes new, radiating life into an already powerful recording.
Being already familiar with Earth prior to the reissue of their early work, this reviewer can only say that the record has been given a mind-blowing treatment this time around. For those that are fans of drone, doom, a combination of both, or are new to the world of Dylan Carlson and company, let it be known as you are diving into this record, that you will not be disappointed. These guys know exactly what the hell they’re doing!