Earth was formed in Olympia, Wa. In 1989 by Dylan Carlson, with an ever evolving line up including Slim Moon (Kill Rock Stars founder), Joe Preston (Melvins) and many others. After moving to Seattle and signing to Sub Pop in 1990 they would release 3 full lengths and an EP including “Earth 2”. Considered by many a definitive statement of the drone triumphant, others have described it as “the inevitable result of the damage done by downers to perception of time”. Whichever the case, its influence is undeniable. If it wasnt for this album, bands like Sunn 0))) simply would not exist.
in 1996 they recorded their final Sub Pop lp “Pentastar (In The Style of Demons)” in an abandoned Colt 45 factory. After its release the “group” disbanded and Earth/Dylan Carlson go on hiatus.
6 years later Earth becomes active once more, with the addition of Adrienne Davies on drums. Unveiling it’s new cleaner, sparser, and more improvisational style. in September 2005 Earth release their first studio album in 9 years, diversifying their sound and pushing all perceived boundaries. With “Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method” Earth create a intense, powerful album that defies restrictions of genre. The monolithic darkness of previous releases such as “Earth 2” is still apparent. though now shifted away from saturated and distorted guitar tones. Using compression, echo, tremelo, and reverb, it is a specifically American style. A “Black Americana” reminiscent of an immense desert landscape at dusk. It is a sound that draws on the influence of Duane Eddy, Merle Haggard & Roy Buchanan and fuses it with the vibe of epic visionary composer Ennio Morricone. Beautifully darkened, huge chords that resonate slowly while every single note is played with a precise conviction.
Where “Hex” reveled in dark satanic twang and austere american beauty, 2008’s “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull” finds Dylan Carlson and the band growing into a harder, more rock, American Gospel and impovisitory direction framed by truly psychedelic production and blazing guitar sounds. Earth shows it’s affinity to the more adventurous San Francisco bands of the late 60’s and 70’s, and the more spiritually aware and exciting forms of Jazz-Rock from the same era.
The most recent records “Angels Of Darkness, Demons of Light - parts 1& 2” (2010 and 2011 respectively) serve as testament to the fact that they have come a long way since 1989. Drawing on inspiration from both British Folk-Rock bands Pentangle and Fairport Convention and the North African Tuareg band Tinariwen, the new material, while still “heavy” is much more fluid and melodically oriented, more textured and nuanced. It contains greater improvisatory interplay between the musicians.
On one hand they acknowledge previous recordings, cultivating the jazz infused Americana presented on “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull” and on the other, there are significant changes which give birth to yet another new sound. The addition of cello, though subtle at times, adds a more haunting tone to the repetition throughout.
Though such repetition may, at times, seem simplistic, there is absolutely nothing simple about holding a note as long as Earth do.
“The ongoing musical project which is Earth has always been concerned with repetition and the drone or THE NOTE. When I was younger and full of hubris I believed that a “pure” or “original” music could be developed in a static and removed state from other music. I now realize that music, especially music containing the drone or THE NOTE, and music that effects a spiritual reaction from the listener is a continuum. It is a music that has continued throughout time and manifested itself in a number of different forms or “genres” or"styles”. I began to see my music as part of and a product of that continuum. I also began to see that continuum strongly expressed in historically ‘american’ forms. Specifically the “genres” of “country” and “blues”. The truly ‘cosmic american musics’.
Dylan Carlson summer 2005.”
very music nerd has gotten roped into the desert island conversation. You know—what’s the one record you would bring with you to some remote location to provide solace for the rest of your days? Or better yet, what’s the one band whose catalog would always remain fresh to your ears, even after years and years of isolation? Of course, the ideal candidate would be a band who has a significant body of work, a band who’s songs span a variety of temperaments and timbres, and, obviously, a band that just plain rules. With their fourth album, Stillicide, Helms Alee prove that they might be the only group you would need for the rest of your life. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the Washington state trio of Ben Verellen (guitar, vocals), Dana James (bass, vocals), and Hozoji Margullis (drums, vocals) delivers the kind of expertly crafted, dynamic, nuanced, and diverse songwriting that is both instantly engaging and—as evidenced by their previous albums Night Terror (2008), Weatherhead (2011), and Sleepwalking Sailors (2014)—increasingly gratifying after years of repeated listens.
With Stillicide, Helms Alee continues their sonic tradition of blending heavy riffs, dark guitar pop, and math rock into songs that are at turns brutal, anthemic, and cerebrally engaging. Starting with the syncopated poundage and epic piano line of “More Weight”, Helms Alee demonstrates that they’ve fortified every angle of their attack. You want amp worship? Try to find a more barbaric chug than the riff in the appropriately titled “Galloping Mind Fuk”. You want melodies so powerful you break out in goosebumps? Try to quell your follicles during the final crescendo of “Tit to Toe”. You want one of those proggy odd-time signature moments where you can flex that you know where the “1” falls while banging your head? Listen to “Bullygoat” and bask in the knotty introductory guitar line that sounds like Duane Denison fucking with Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”. Relish the brutalage of the title track. Savor the minor-key jangle of “Andromenous”. Ride the tumultuous tug-of-war between savagery and serenity in the album closer “Worth Your Wild”.
After nearly a decade of existence, one can only assume that a band is either entering their sunset years or striding with such artistic strength and confidence that they are creating a whole new legacy for themselves. With Helms Alee, it is obviously the latter scenario. The band set a high bar for themselves with their spectacular debut album Night Terror, but every subsequent release has trumped their previous endeavors. Bolstered by the recording and production expertise of Kurt Ballou at God City Studios, Stillicide is not only the group’s strongest collection of songs, it is arguably their best sounding release to date. The heavier moments are that much more oppressive; their melodic angles are that much more beguiling, and the juxtaposition between Verellen’s patriarchal roar and the siren song vocals of James and Margullis is that much more exhilarating. If there was only one band you could listen to for the rest of your life, Helms Alee would satiate most every emotional yearning. And if you could only pick one of their albums, you’d gravitate towards the best document of their textural range and songwriting chops. You’d gravitate towards Stillicide. - by Brian Cook