Celebrating Earth’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1
Coming towards the end of a very long and storied career, Earth’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 was a move away from the rich, syrupy layers of Bees Made Honey. Eight years old this month, Angels 1 shifted their sound into something a little less layered and more guitar-driven.
Thin, sad, and minimalist, Dylan Carlson’s guitar snakes through long, ponderous riffs whilst Lori Goldston’s cello answers, wailing underneath. The resultant record is slower, calmer and older; it’s no mistake that a few of the titles reference age. This Earth, much like the dying one on which we live, is reflective, gloomy, and dour.
Old Black, opening the record, is one of the most recognisable Earth tracks; a languid guitar skeleton that mourns over a slow, ponderous beat. It’s telling that live versions tend to fill in a lot of the gaps; the temptation is to add more meat. Of course, the sparse quality means every note is felt with dramatic impact. Earth are rarely straightforward and this is no exception, but it’s curious to note that they’re rarely this morose; Old Black, and the record it opens, are sad, sad pieces.
This sadness continues with the melancholic Father Midnight, which has less of a central riff for the flourishes to dance around and features some more off-script moments. Here the scratchy, unsteady nature of the instruments becomes clear; everything is only just in time with itself and feels like at any moment it could collapse into miserable ashes.
Descent to the Zenith is a similar story, with some cymbal bell work thrown in that makes the percussion a little clearer. By this point the record’s vibe is fully established; oppressive and mournful, every new addition has a funeral tinge; cymbals sound like lonely church bells, the cello dirge is sinister and deathly and the space between notes is the perfect time to reflect on the listener’s personal woes. By this point the minute distinctions in the riffs are a little more familiar. Hell’s Winter leans a little heavier on the central riff, the guitars a little stronger and more prominent, with more of a heavy metal swagger to them, flavoured by their unique goth-country. Things pick up towards the end before dissolving into a sad void.
The titular track, a mammoth 20 minutes, reminds us that despite having space to wander the rest of the album does have at least a loose architecture, even if this is cleverly obscured. Angels is sparser still, the silence palpable after the hint of activity moments ago. It builds to the lugubrious ponder that is so familiar, but this time a little more active and involved, a touch more melodic, the guitars playing against the cello. Here there’s more space for the track to build up before dropping away again, the pieces falling away. Even as it does so new ideas flourish and flounder, guitar licks fighting their way up before withering.
Angels 1 is wintery and draining, a very February record. Nonetheless, it’s testament to what Carlson and associates could do with so little, taking a minimalist approach to heavy music and make something raw and immersive. The saddest of all the Earth records, if Earth 2 showed them taking concepts like minimalism and applying them to metal, they’re just as effective at playing with moods and emotion.