(NCS contributor Tyler Lowery provides this guest review of the new album by Earthship from Berlin.)
In due respect to Earthship’s new album Iron Chest, I’m not going to grease the wheels with any quippy one-liners or give any background at all. I’m just going to hit the ground at a sprint and let the music do its own talking. Earthship have released their second album, and it isn’t an exercise in extravagance or even beauty. It’s raw, no-nonsense sludge metal that would rather kick your teeth in than wow you with any fancy tricks, and because of that, it’s excellent.
The album starts with a bang and rarely slows down. The guitars shake and rumble through stripped-down leads and coherent riffs that have only one job — keep the movement gritty and propel the song into the next battering ram. The bass is fuzzier than a gerbil’s jewels, and the drums are loud and rudimentary. There aren’t tricky solos or self-indulgent post-rock inspired passages of layer upon layer of quiet sound that eventually arrives at something akin to satisfaction.
The leads are brilliant in their simplicity. You won’t find any weedly weedly here. The washed-out guitars play the part of caravan, carrying the music from the beginning to the end. Where your death metal lead guitar will slice through songs like a well sharpened knife, the guitars on Iron Chest present a more blunt approach. Each song is like a club coming swiftly down on the top of your skull.
The solos are short and to the point. There’s no beating around the bush here. It’s loud and it burns fast. I can’t overstate how much this plays into the band’s favor.
As I had said earlier, the rhythm section also adopts the road less traveled these days and sticks to what they do best, carrying the tune. The bass grumbles its way through fuzzy lines that sit nicely under the gritty guitar tone and fill out the dirty sound. The drums are grimy in their production, and sound like a bar fight dipped in a mud bath. The thump of the bass and crack of the snare are both organic and there is rarely any evidence of processing at all. This leaves the sound wide open and just plain filthy.
The vocal delivery isn’t anything spectacular, but at the same time, it isn’t bland. The screaming draws cues from Intronaut at first listen, but the more I hear some of the venomous shouts in the early onset of the album, I can’t help but think about Mushroomhead’s Jeffrey Nothing. The cleans have a Down-type vibe, and at times seem to have more production in them than any of the other components of the music. If there is a detracting point of this album, it would be the vocals.
Overall, the band sounds like a fuzzed-out rock and roll group from back in the day that was picked up and dropped into the current sludge scene among the likes of High on Fire and Neurosis. Considering the presence of members from The Ocean, this conclusion isn’t much of a stretch. While the influence is certainly there, this isn’t a rip-off or a second-rate afterthought to say the least. The band stands on its own two feet and presents evidence of a promising future in the sludge scene.