Dusted Reviews

Earth - Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Earth

Album: Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword

Label: Megablade

Review date: May. 8, 2005

Great bands always inspire imitators. But, humorously, the greatest bands inspire imitators better than themselves. This is definitely the case with Earth, Dylan Carlson’s 16-rpm ambient metal project. When Earth first worm-crawled into Northwestern public consciousness in the early ’90s, they were inconceivably iconoclastic, droning deep, (usually) drumless waves of crushing, cavernous atmosphere. Their affiliation with Sub Pop and Quaalude-scraggly hair got them understandably lumped in with the nascent grunge implosion, but, despite Kurt Cobain’s stoned fandom, that was never Earth’s orbit. Carlson’s wavelength was endless/nameless all the way, which alienated the rock-centric Seattle status quo. (Ironically, these self-same flannel alliances kept European high-art drone-essayists’ noses upturned). Very few understood. For some wonderful reason, it took a tribute band to truly unlock Earth’s mysteries.

Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson are the hugest Earth fans on earth. Discerning metal-heads since their high school days, they raged through a smattering of stormy, doom bands (Burning Witch, Goatsnake, etc.) before finally forming Sunn 0))), their heavy homage to Carlson and his preferred amplifier. From Flight of the Behemoth to White1 and White2, Sunn 0))) take all of Earth’s evil, dying, electric crawl, and turn it ritualistic. Giant, slow slabs of magma volume, tolling like monk gongs, orchestrated into circular processions of hypnotic, demonic infinity. Although sacrilegious to say, Sunn 0))) eclipse Earth’s achievements. Their power, precision, and vision are all blindingly superior to Carlson’s humble, gritty feedback. Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword, which showcases a pair of re-formed Earth’s recent live recordings, further proves this to be true.

The first track, the weightily titled “Dissolution III,” is a creepy, unfurling meditation of distortion and hand-wrought sludge. Chords twist and sparkle noisily, but Carlson’s junkyard raga moves with too heavy a hand, climbing the frets like a ladder, hitting lots of high guitar-solo notes and coming to stuttered stops. Too busy for transcendence, but so static it borders on boring, Dissolution III bleeds diffusely across 15 very long minutes, never growing, evolving, or dissolving.

“Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword,” however, is the duller of the two drags. A colossal, preposterously unending live jam recorded at a show in New York in 2002, the track is mainly noteworthy for the presence of new Earth member Adrienne Davies’ drugged, zombie drumming. She bashes out a steady, dead march for the majority of the song’s eterbity-seeming 58 minutes, accompanied by a fairly uninspired Carlson guitar progression. It sounds a lot like Earth doing classic rock, all cymbal-crashing drums, total rock riffery, and doped up Sabbath swagger. And god is it ever tedious. There’s a point 28 minutes in where the drums fall away, leaving the guitar to tread water in its feedback all alone, and the song seems to be winding down. It’s been a half hour of the same simple riff, and the song is far past due to end. Then, unbelievably, Davies’ starts up stomping on the floor tom, and Carlson curls the same monotonous chords back into the foreground, thus ushering in the painful second half of “Living in the Gleam.” And there’s still a long, long way to go. Earth may not be a cold, dead place, but it is an extremely tiresome one. The ambient-doom-metal solar system revolves around Sunn 0))) now. It’s official.

By Britt Brown

Other Reviews of Earth

Legacy of Dissolution

Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method


The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Vol. 2

Read More

View all articles by Britt Brown

Find out more about Megablade

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.