Earth has been very prolific over the last two years; Dylan Carlson explains why.
When Earth played at Blå in April 2011, the band was at a loss. Not only was the place packed full of fans from all ages and walks of life, but these fans also cheered so loudly and so long that guitarist Dylan Carlson says they quickly had to think of a song for encore. They couldn’t have chosen better. The song was “Ourobros is Broken” from their first release in 1991 titled Extra-Capsular Extraction, and it proved to be the last savory bit that topped off an incredible evening of music.
Earth’s concert at Victoria Jazzscene this past April was no different. The positive tension and flow between the four band members set the mood that enhanced the audience’s live experience of Earth’s latest album, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II, the follow-up to their previous album Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I from last year. The atmosphere on these two albums is quite dark, but there are moments that feel like the clouds are breaking, and I was curious to know Earth’s motivations that led to such a dynamic sound.
Dylan Carlson is inarguably one of the pioneers of drone doom metal, and his work in Earth has continued to develop in new ways since their first E.P. came out. Most agree that there are two periods for Earth: their music from the 1990s and the music they have released within the last decade. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I & II show a more minimalized and nuanced sophistication that characterizes the last decade. However, their older albums with their noisier drone have stood the test of time and are still relevant i music today. Before their concert at Victoria Jazzscene, I talked with Carlson about his relationship between these two periods, working again with Stuart Hallerman (producer for 1993’s Earth 2 and now Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I & II), and the influence of nature in Carlson’s work.
If one looks at Earth’s discography from the last decade, it seems strange that the band would release two whole albums in such a short time. Since Earth started up again in 2005 with the record Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, they have used three years between each album in order to finish the next one. Now suddenly there are two albums, recorded within two weeks last year, and additionally Carlson’s first solo album, which he hopes to finish this year. I asked Carlson why he and Earth had become motivated to put out so much material, and I was not ready for his answer.
In an interview with Invisible Oranges last year, Carlson explained that he had a rare form of hepatitus B he probably contracted from “past bad behavior”; the doctors told him he had had this disease for at least ten years. According to Carlson, the way the virus works is “It gets in, and then your immune system can defeat it or hold it at bay. If it holds it at bay, the virus will mutate until it can get around your immune system. If it does, that it starts doing damage, and you are in trouble. It hadn’t found the right way to attack my liver, and all of a sudden it did.”
As someone from the Northwest of the U.S. who has grown up with Earth’s music and the lore of Dylan Carlson, it is incredibly tragic story to hear. During our interview, Carlson was affable, quick to laugh, and very positive about his situation and the work that spawned from this very real possibility that “this may be the last Earth record”. It is difficult to imagine how to tackle the finality of life due to one’s mistakes made over a decade ago, but he manages it with a smile, a sweet countenance, and a determination to give us fans as much material as he can. I know that I, for one, am thankful.
photos by Sebastian Rusten