Each release from the revived drone institution Earth finds ringleader Dylan Carlson exploring every possible interpretation of the word “heavy.” During Earth’s first incarnation, the adjective was provided by the sheer volume and distortion of the proceedings. When Earth re-emerged in 2005 with Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method, the focus turned towards atmosphere, the serrated buzz and hum of earlier work replaced by steely Western twang and arrangements that achingly heaved from section to section. As its title indicates, this album is the second part of a larger work, but instead of merely acting as a continuation of its predecessor, it represents a break in theme. Despite retaining the same lineup of musicians (bassist Karl Blau, cellist Lori Goldston, and now-longtime drummer Adrienne Davies), and being recording during the same sessions that yielded the first album, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II is a far more minimal work, relying more on improvisational interactions and an even quieter approach than usual.
This last point is illustrated very clearly on opener “Sigil Of Brass,” which for all intensive purposes is a Carlson solo track. The main three notes of Carlson’s theme are given ample space to ring out, while the rest of the band contributes to the fringes of the track. “His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” ominously trots along thanks to Blau’s plucked bass part, and is given an even more sinister edge by Davies’ percussion. Meanwhile, Carlson’s guitar slips and slides in and out of the song, constantly toeing the line between clean and distorted. The 13-minute “Waltz (A Multiplicity Of Doors),” exemplifies the album’s triumphs, and provides the clearest glimpse into how heaviness is explored this time around. It’s a track that sports an almost oppressive repeating theme, providing Goldston’s cello a stage to downright writhe upon. It’s the most harrowing section of the album, one that effectively creates a stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere. For all of the location talk assigned to Earth’s more recent work, all of the images of wind-blasted cabins and Western landscapes tossed around, tracks like these sound more like being trapped below the floorboards. This high point is followed by the palate-cleansing “The Corascene Dog,” the most prototypical “new-Earth” of the five tracks here. Closer “The Rakehell” might be the loosest thing the band has done in their second incarnation. Padded by glazy backing guitar tracks, Carlson finally stomps on the distortion box and allows himself to shoot off a few fuzz-guitar rockets into the ether. It contains the most forward momentum on the album, working itself into a quiet fury before slowly exhaling and grinding to a halt.
Followers of Earth’s past few releases will find Carlson and company in great, if not familiar form here. Instead of it being just another Earth 2.0 album though, the completed Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light is a successful experiment in sounding absolutely huge while doing so little, and the confirming masterstroke of Carlson’s new direction.