Vinyl Review: Earthless – From The Ages
I really feel like I’m doing this album a disservice by writing a review despite not once listening to the record whilst under the influence of mind-altering drugs. However, the last time I did that I ended up giving a decidedly three-star electronic album a five-star review*, and I’d rather not invalidate my critical opinion once again. But it really doesn’t matter all that much, because I don’t think any psychotropic drug could make me dig this album anymore. Because this is the kind of shit that melts faces. From The Ages is the third studio recording from Earthless, an instrumental psychedelic rock band from San Diego. It’s the group’s first studio release since 2007’s excellent Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky, but they’ve released several live albums in the meantime, which makes sense because I bet these guys sound fucking amazing live. As I mentioned in my review of the recent re-issue of their last LP, Earthless is a psychedelic rock band in the traditional sense, with a heavy focus on long solos and non-stop driving rhythm. That elevates them above many other “jam” focused bands in my opinion, as they rarely let the tempo slide or the tracks dip into repetitive noodling as they figure out where to take a song next. They’re always on point, and always delivering the jams. This in large part has to do with their guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, whose Hendrixesque shredding rarely lets up once a track starts, and that’s really saying something considering most Earthless songs dwell in the 20 minute range. He always seems to be delivering one amazing solo after another, all epic and jaw-dropping. If it wasn’t 2013 and the world cared about rock music still, this dude would be a household name. He’s that good.
And unlike their previous album, on From The Ages, he’s allowed to show a bit of range as well. Earthless’ first two LPs each consisted of two long songs, each psychedelic freak-outs that, while great, were all cut from the same cloth for the most part. With From The Ages, the band branches out slightly. While the album opener “Violence Of the Red Sea” is a typical side-length journey to the center of your mind, the second cut, “Uluru Rock,” is more of a slow jam that emphasizes a strong blues/early metal sound. It lacks the sonic intensity of other Earthless tracks, but its a welcome change for sure. The group slows things down even more for the next cut, “Equus October,” which is downright shoegazey and almost drone at times before it explodes into a radical guitar solo at the end. It’s also a nice change of pace, and one that doesn’t wear out its welcome thanks to its shockingly brief six-minute runtime.
But all of this is just an appetizer for the album’s title track, an insane, utterly bombastic, downright mental free-for-all that spans two complete sides of the vinyl version (the digital edition makes it one long track). It starts out as a fast-paced guitar jam, slows down long enough to deliver a perfect (and perfectly brief) drum solo, and then picks right back up again to break your brain once more for a jaw-dropping, earth(less) shattering conclusion. Holy shit. From The Ages is really the kind of album that was made to listened to on vinyl, so thankfully Tee Pee record have gone out of their way to deliver an excellent vinyl package. Two editions of the vinyl album were made available before the street date, a standard edition with regular black vinyl, and a limited edition variant with brilliant blue records. You can only get the standard version now, but I was lucky enough to score a blue one. It looks bitchin’.
It also sounds bitchin’. Nary a pop or scratch throughout my playthrough, with minimal surface noise during the quieter parts of the album. The download included with the album also sounds great. It’s a bit “louder,” but it’s not too loud. And it’s the only way you can hear the title track without a break in the middle. Although to be honest I kind of enjoy the absurdity of a song so long that it has to be split in half.
This kind of music is not for everyone, I understand that. But if you’re the type of person who longs for the days of Iron Butterfly or Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Who Do You Love” suite, then you should fall in love with this record. Also, if you take acid I assume you’ll find something here to enjoy, even if it is just the album cover. *For the record, the drug was percocet, and I was under prescription due to a cracked rib. Just say no kids.