Dylan Carlson reinvented Earth in 2005 with Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method. The influence of his classic doom and drone albums, especially 1993’s Earth 2, has grown steadily, birthing a new subgenre of metal, of which the celebrated Sunn O))) is the most visible proponent. Over the past few years, a new breed of metal fan has been scrambling to collect Earth’s mid-’90s albums. Hex, however, was a radical departure from the classic Earth sound. Carlson adopted a new style, playing long melodies with a bright and clear tone, evoking Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks more than Sabbath’s crushing riffs.
Hibernaculum continues Hex‘s transformative work. It includes three rerecorded old Earth tracks and one new piece of music. It also comes with a DVD that features footage from Earth’s European tour and interviews with Carlson and drummer Adrienne Davies. Hibernaculum both clarifies and deepens Earth’s break with the band’s past by foregrounding the melodies in songs that used to just rattle your chest. The first three tracks on the CD should be of great interest to anyone who has followed the band’s development. These songs are cleaned up and made leaner, stripped of the doomy gauze.
The album closes with its only completely new musical offering, “A Plague of Angels,” which, at sixteen minutes, constitutes almost half of Hibernaculum‘s runtime. It is an epic piece that develops excruciatingly slowly. It is built on a surprisingly small handful of musical ideas, which are introduced and developed impeccably, with a rare kind of patience. Carlson states the motifs with grace and restraint. The somber droning behind his melodies and the stateliness of Davies’s slow drumming create a hypnotic effect.
A wealth of disparate influences are evident on Hibernaculum — Americana, post-rock, even jazz — but they’re melded so organically that they never register as mere references. As he is quick to point out in one of the interviews on the DVD, Carlson has forced his influences through the fire of his own sensibility. He always has, which is why Earth never really sounded like any other band. Even now, as a growing host crowds around the altar of Earth’s influence, Carlson and his band are on their way somewhere else.