ALBUMS: Everybody Loves A Parade (Even Demons!)

Earthless take it further on their sixth studio album

Earthless (Image: Nuclear Blast America)

I don’t think anyone was worried that the Earthless of yore was gone forever when they broke their own mold with a six-song, 40-minute album in 2018. Black Heaven was also the San Diego trio’s first full-length to really feature guitarist Isaiah Mitchell’s Homme-esque vocals.

So it’s not like a return to form was needed. At the same time, there’s nothing but joy to be had in Earthless doing what they do best, which is jam the fuck out for an hour.

The band’s brand new studio album Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons shares a name with one epic song, presumably split into “Part 1” and “Part 2” to fit on either side of a vinyl record. Make that a double LP, since there’s another twenty-minute workout called “Death To the Red Sun” that rounds out side 3.

Things start off sparse on “Part 1” of the title track, with some atmospheric bricklaying that would sound right at home on a Boris or Earth album. Five and a half minutes in, Mitchell nods to Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel, a hero who either needs no introduction, or deserves a lost weekend in your best headphones. A minute later, things explode into a riff that recalls Earthless’s early fascination with cult Japanse proto-doom act Flower Travellin’ Band.


Artist: Earthless

Album: Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons  

Label: Nuclear Blast America 

★★★★ (4/5 stars) 


While Mitchell makes the most of the studio by laying down perfect rhythm tracks to solo over, it’s the rhythm section that keeps things moving right along. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Hot Snakes, Rocket From the Crypt, Off!, etc) and bassist Mike Eginton have spent much of the last two decades building monolithic grooves textured with subtle microvariations. Their inspired melding of Krautrock repetitions and psychedelic rock give them endless space on which to paint their musical murals.

Deep in the first track, Rubalcaba cues the band into the next section, a series of chords glorious enough to recall “Starship Trooper” by Yes. It wouldn’t be right to call Earthless’s patient build-ups punishment; but the crescendos that they surf together are mightily rewarding.

“Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons Part 2” begins with a martial tom tom beat over four-on-the-floor kick drum. The ascetic Rubalcaba pounds while Eginton drones, creating a rhythmic mantra beneath Mitchell’s exploratory, single note delay-drenched guitar. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a Roland Space Echo was spooling away somewhere in that smoky sound.

Earthless Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons, Nuclear Blast America 2021

Again, somewhere around the six-minute mark, things start to sound a bit dire. Washes of sound build, evaporate, coalesce, disperse into mist, then finally leap into a high energy jam fueled by fuzz guitar and an array of pedals pushed to their limits. That’s when you realize that “Part 2” is only halfway over. Mitchell fingers lead runs up and down the fretboard, then segues right into that triumphant riff from “Part 1.” Only this time the guitar shimmers with vibrato. The rest of the song is a jigsaw composition of all the riffs introduced up to this point, a rollercoaster ride through rocky canyons of sound. And it feels so good.

I’ll admit, Earthless is so fucking good live that I don’t reach for their albums as often as I should. They’ve even gifted us with four official live albums to date, but it’s not quite the same as watching them wring musical dust devils out of bass, drums, and guitar. Most of the time the microphone in front of Mitchell is just used to say “hi” to the audience, or introduce a song.

Earthless was one of the last bands I saw in concert before the first Covid-19 lockdowns started. Listening to Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons all week has made me miss them even more. What a gift to have an album that displays all their live prowess, but gives Mitchell a bit more room to add textures and support himself.

But I digress. The last two minutes of “Part 2” are a wah wah-squelched noise build that would make Acid Mother’s Temple proud. Things build to a fever pitch, stop on a dime, then a haunting ghost moan of guitar wafts through the speakers as a final farewell.

But it ain’t over yet, because the mournful desert dirge “Death To The Red Sun” kicks in as quick as you can flip the record; quicker if you’re listening digitally. It’s not hard to picture robed riders on a desperate mission, racing against time as the setting sun bleeds out across the sandy horizon. Overall, it’s a meaty track that adds twenty minutes of bonus music to an already epic album.

Earthless just postponed their February west coast tour to April due to pandemic conditions. I can’t think of any better way to wait out their next performance than by memorizing this solid hour of tunes in preparation for eventual live devastation.

 

VIDEO: Earthless “Death to the Red Sun”

 

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Nathan Carson

Nathan Carson is a writer, musician, and MOTH StorySlam Champion from Portland, Oregon. A founding member of the international doom band Witch Mountain, Carson is the host of the FM radio show The Heavy Metal Sewïng Cïrcle, owner of boutique booking agency Nanotear, and author of the weird horror novella Starr Creek. More about his music, music writing, fiction and graphic novels can be found at www.nathancarson.rocks.

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