Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Dread Opens Its Maw

Earth – Hibernaculum

If you like your music slow. Reaaaaaaaaaally sloooooooooooooow, then this album might be for you. Earth have flitted around a few different genres in their eighteen years of existence but they're primarily known as practitioners of doom metal, the somewhat avant garde style that strips metal of all speed and melody and reduces it to mere rhythmic heaviness.

On one of their most recent albums, Hibernaculum, Earth lighten up a little. The distortion is gone and they've rerecorded some of their older, heavy songs in a style that they refer to as 'country', although to my ears I don't hear the relationship, beyond the hint of a twang in the guitars. It's definitely interesting music. The format is drums, bass, two guitars, no vocals and the occasional appearance of an organ, and as I stated above, it's very slow. The rhythm section play less than one note per second, and while the lead guitar is a little more garrulous, it's minimal melodies are still played at a shuffle.

There are only four tracks on this album and they are reasonably lengthy, so I would have expected such sparse music to wear out it's welcome well before the record's end, but surprisingly enough it turns out to be very engaging. Part of this is because of the skilful arrangement, with introduces just the barest amount of melodic development, but mostly it's because of the intense mood of the music. It reminds me a lot of Isis' Panopticon, which had a similar feeling of oppression, heaviness and doom. Isis have a lot more aggression and dynamism; listening to them feels as if the world is ending right now, literally crashing down around you. Earth sounds more like the last (protracted) dying moments as the world is swallowed up by the sun. It might be doomladen but it has a powerful, resigned beauty to it as well. The album art is beautiful too, decorated with artificial looking photographs of nature, in a nice illustration of the album title, and some short but evocative text.

The album also comes with a DVD. There's always a small risk in getting to see the people behind the music, as if the music is that great, the personalities behind it will never turn to be as cool as you imagine they should be. Sometimes they're still cooler than you'd have any right to expect (Opeth, Tool). Sometimes they come across as a little dorky but not so much as to matter while you're listening to their music (Dillinger Escape Plan). But sometimes they're just so aggravating that their obnoxious personality actually impinges on your enjoyment of their music forever after. I sat through the hour long documentary on the Hibernaculum DVD, and I can honestly say without hyperbole that I have never heard such a big bunch of wank in my entire life. Here are a few choice quotes:
“I think that the more complicated music gets, the closer it becomes to just being noise.”
This one's not so bad, but I do have two responses. 1) Tell that to Bach. 2) What's wrong with noise anyway?
“I could take it farther... if I wanted to. I could get into just intonations and all those kind of intonating systems...”
Just... gah... Just shut up!

Next time just stick to the live footage guys.

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