Review: Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II

The second half of a massive opus that delivers in nearly every way.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson



Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II

Southern Lord Records

Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II, the second half of the band Earth’s opus, reminds me of Bruce Lee’s outlook on martial arts. Lee's mantra was, “to have true form you must have no form”. In other words, to truly become the master you must be have no defining thing to master. You are simply moving with whatever comes and achieving greatness through it. That’s what Earth has done with Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, parts one and two; they have achieved a higher level of musical existence by having no form at all.

While the first part of Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light began the journey, its part two where Earth achieves a nearly spiritual elevation.  The ethereal state of the music is second only to the emotion that it brings. Hearing something so light, so delicate and without form that can still bring an emotional response is rare. The experience opens your mind up to what’s possible when pretention and structure are controlled by artistic expression. To call Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II nuanced or subtle is too easy. Guitarist/Mastermind Dylan Carlson isn’t writing to be either of those things. Instead he brings a feeling of stream of consciousness to the music. Not in a sloppy way, there is an idea here, but it’s allowed to gestate and grow so organically it feels like there is no idea. See what I mean, it’s fucked up.

“Sigil Of Brass” opens the record with soft notes played over and over but never identically. The notes roll off the guitar, switching in small ways with every pluck of the string. It creates a tension that is as powerful as any song trying to use a cacophony of sounds to achieve that effect. Filling the empty spaces between these notes are barely audible hi-hats and a cello that comes across chilling by how slow and deliberate the bow is moved across the strings. With this elemental combination of instruments and the creative use of silence, “Sigil Of Brass” introduces you to Earth’s new mindset. To their formless form.

Building on the quiet reserve of “Sigil Of Brass”, Earth moves into “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” a song bringing more instruments to the table but without losing the formless beauty. Here the guitar plays more consistently but again with each stroke changing slightly. The guitar warbles and shakes without losing control, each note ringing out with a melancholy sadness. One thing I love about Dylan Carlson’s writing is that you’re never sure if he sat down and hammered these guitars part out or just steps into the studio and just opens himself up to play whatever he feels he needs to.

Behind the guitars on “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine”, various musical events are happening but tempered against the guitars so well you more feel them than hear them. I know it sounds pretentious but it’s the only way to describe it. You feel everything happening around the guitar but unless you focus you’d be hard pressed to say what exactly is being played. Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II nourishes both the mind and the soul, a claim so few other records, even in this genre, can make.

The closest to “form” the album touches is “Waltz (A Multiplicity Of Doors)” and that’s only because the drums give it a base. Don’t mistake that idea for a “drum line”, that’s not what’s going on here at all.  Percussionist Adrienne Davis attacks the drums as individual pieces, not a whole kit. The toms, snare, hi-hats, cymbals are all used for what they can bring to the song individually. That style gives “Waltz (A Multiplicity Of Doors) a disjointed feel which fuels the music happening around it.  Sonically Earth play with dissonance on this song more so than the others. Imagine Thelonious Monk trying to make ambient soundscapes and you’ll get the idea.

As Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light Part II continues, more begins to happen. As the album drew to a close it occurred to me that there was a sonic storyline here. The first tune had minimal notes and lots of silence, while the end came with a fuller, brighter sound. The album never falls into a typical “song” style but the twelve minute closer “The Rakehell” is a more rounded version of what Earth are doing than “Sigil Of Brass”.  That subtle filling in of the music gives Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II peeks and valleys, high and lows but without sacrificing the whole formless idea. To do that is something very few bands can even dream of, much less execute.

This is an elevated musical experience, not just a record. You understand everything, you feel everything, but you couldn’t explain it outside of description. The lack of form forces Angels Of Darkness Demons Of Light II to be something you have to sit down with, listen to, and draw your own understanding from.  This is the first truly remarkable album of the New Year. The only downside is wondering where the hell Earth goes from here.