Earthless - Black Heaven Album Review
There are two kinds of rock albums that can be released in 2018 that still pack as strong of a punch as the genre did in its heyday: albums that stretch the boundaries of what rock can be, and albums that elevate the conventions of the genre to their climatic peaks. Black Heaven, the fourth album from San Diego based psychedelic rock band Earthless, is a bold statement of the later. From beginning to end, Black Heaven’s six tracks are ladened with impressive performances, absorbing riffs and labyrinth-like song structures that make for some of the best 40 minutes of rock music in recent memory.
Black Heaven isn’t about trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Earthless fully embraces the conventions of psychedelic rock and stoner rock and asks “what can we do with these tools to make something that absolutely shreds harder than anyone else is currently shredding?” The answer to this question comes in multiple forms on Black Heaven, but none of which would be made possible if it weren’t for the bands impeccable talents as individual players and as a unit as a whole. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba and bassist Mike Eginton work perfectly in sync to provide a stable yet dynamic rhythm section for Isaiah Mitchell’s face-melting guitar playing. It’s the kind of power-trio work of 1970s rock that abides by the concept that when you put musicianship first, amazing music will follow.
And follow it does. The riffs on Black Heaven focuses less on dialing into the heaviest sound and instead slowly ramps up its complexity over the course of each song. “Gifted by the Wind” perfectly puts this technique to work, shifting the pitch and arpeggio directions the deeper the band gets into the song. Though the guitar work here does play center stage for the majority of the album, Eginton’s bass is mixed perfectly so that his grooves are always tucked neatly under the guitar to help every song keep its forward momentum and rhythmic complexity. Rubalcaba is great at walking this line as well, shining through when appropriate but focusing mostly on precision for the sake of the album’s sound as a whole.
But the true highlight has to be the band’s effortless songwriting. While many of these songs are structured in a jam style to make way for dynamic improvisation, the parts where Earthless stay true to the songs from compels each song to the next level. Rarely can a band pull off an album that keeps the pace and intensity as high as Earthless does without overwhelming the listener or losing sight of the importance of melody. Earthless is always able to introduce a new riff or section of the song right before the current section their working in would lose its punch.
Earthless have managed to put together a jam album that feels like a complex psychedelic odyssey while maintaining the riffage and strong sense of melody usually more at home on a straightforward stoner rock album. While there’s no real low points to the album, in context of the numerous albums of the genre that have come before it, Black Heaven doesn’t necessarily do anything longtime fans of the genre haven’t heard before. But Earthless certainly do it in a way that begs to be repeated at unhealthy volumes from every speaker you can get your hands on.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Public Relations