Earthless Announce Australia & New Zealand Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless (Photo by Atiba Jefferson)

Well, it looks like after a busy 2018, Earthless will keep their momentum rolling into the New Year by heading to Australia and New Zealand for what if I’m not mistaken will be the tail end of summer. As best-of list time rolls around, it certainly seems like 2018’s Black Heaven (review here) isn’t being forgotten if the early returns on the year-end poll are anything to go by (add your list!), and neither should it be. As I recall, last time Earthless were in Oz they kept company with Elder, and though I’m not sure with whom they’ll tour this time, the fact that it’s the three of them is well enough reason to show up. Doesn’t matter what else is going on that night — you’re not going to get a better gig than an Earthless gig.

As they’ve been announced already for Kristonfest in Spain and Desertfest in London and Berlin, I’m expecting a European tour announcement will follow soon enough. After that, who knows? Maybe US summer dates? Maybe a return to South America? They can go anywhere at this point and be welcome, so we’ll see.

Dates follow, as per the social medias. Also note the shows this month in California and Arizona, with the likes of Sacri Monti and the golly-I-wish-their-record-came-out-this-year Volcano. Whenever that album does show up, it’ll be a party.

Dig:

EARTHLESS – AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND TOUR ANNOUNCED!!

Beyond stoked for this tour! Pre Sale: Thursday 29th Nov-10am-11:59pm AEDT / General Sale: Friday 30th November 10am AEDT

TICKETS & INFO: http://davidroywilliams.com/tours/earthless/

Earthless Australia/New Zealand Tour 2019
21 Feb: Melbourne AU at Max Watt’s House of Music
22 Feb: Wellington NZ at Valhalla
23 Feb: Tauranga NZ at TOTARA STREET
24 Feb: Auckland NZ at Galatos
26 Feb: Wollongong AU at UOW UniBar
28 Feb: Canberra AU at The Basement
1 Mar: Sydney AU at Crowbar Sydney
2 Mar: Narrabeen at Narrabeen RSL
3 Mar: Newcastle at The Small Ballroom
6 Mar: Gold Coast at Miami Tavern
7 Mar: Brisbane at Crowbar Brisbane
8 Mar: Geelong at The Barwon Club Hotel
10 Mar: Perth at Amplifier Capitol

FINAL SHOWS OF THE YEAR

Thu Dec 13: The Satellite in LA (night #1 w/ SACRI MONTI + Salt Lick) *different set each night). TIX: www.facebook.com/events/348048522420075/

Fri Dec 14: The Satellite in LA (night #2 w/ Volcano) *different set each night* TIX: www.facebook.com/events/348048522420075/

Sat Dec 15: The Nile Theater Basement in Mesa AZ (w/ The Oxford Coma) TIX: www.facebook.com/events/1746103095502023/

Sun Dec 16: Belly Up in Solana Beach CA (w/ Volcano) TIX: www.facebook.com/events/359792621432881/

Earthless is:
Bass: Mike Eginton
Drums: Mario Rubalcaba
Guitar & Vocals: Isaiah Mitchell

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Earthless, Live in Vancouver, BC, Oct. 10, 2018

Earthless, “Electric Flame”

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Earthless Post Full Set Live Video from Belgium

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless (Photo by Atiba Jefferson)

A full set, professionally filmed, of Earthless playing live in Belgium earlier this year on their European tour supporting their Nuclear Blast debut, Black Heaven (review here)? It seems to me that Chromecast was made for such things. Like, specifically. Someone sat in their open office space in one of Google’s colorful bunkers and said, “Hey, I bet someday Earthless are gonna play a killer show and some internet dork without a smart tv is gonna want a way to watch it on a bigger screen than his laptop, which he calls The Silver Fox. Also, it’s six in the morning when this happens.” Points for specificity, Google Employee #X5-49647-J, as your legal name has been changed to be. I guess all that data mining and email keywording really pays off.

Anyhoozle, if you wanna pretend like you have better things to do for the next 65 minutes, that’s on you. Seems to me the thing to do is grab yourself a snack and/or a tasty beverage of whatever sort and let guitarist/vocalist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba — who was wearing the same Sonic Rendezvous shirt when he sat in with Volcano at Roadburn later in April — hold sway for as long as they please. If you’ve seen the band before, the argument for full viewing is easy: it’s Earthless. If not, you’re likely to find an entirely new appreciation for the classic power trio dynamic between them. Because Earthless are nothing if they’re not a classic power trio, stylistically and at this point in terms of their impact on heavy rock and roll in general.

In the wake of Black Heaven, there’s been a lot of wax poetry in the critique around them. Well enough earned, to be sure. Who the hell doesn’t want to swim in the 65-minute ocean of sonic righteousness that is this set? Such as it is, though, their “formula” for success is as simple as it is rare: They’re great players who are great together.

That is, if you put Eginton, Rubalcaba or Mitchell in any other band, they’re good enough that you’d probably say, “holy shit, this guy is killer” about whatever they were doing in said band. Fine. But there’s a whole other level of Earthless that’s not at all about them as individuals, but a single collective unit. It’s how they feed off each other while they’re playing, about the conversation that’s happening between them instrumentally. That chemistry and that dynamic takes more than just basic talent to happen. And it’s the reason why there’s only one Earthless, no matter how many other acts try to make it otherwise.

They’re on tour now in Europe and will be back in the States after. Dates are below, courtesy of the PR wire:

Enjoy the video:

Earthless, Live at de Kreun, April 3, 2018

In the lead up to their fall European tour, San Diego based EARTHLESS have released pro shot live footage of their show at De Kreun in Kortrijk, Belgium from April this year.

The heavy psych power trio will be returning to both the UK and mainland Europe for a run of twelve shows in support of their latest mind bending offering Black Heaven which was released earlier this year. Commencing Sunday 29th July in Birmingham, UK at the Hare & Hounds, the upcoming venture includes a number of European festival appearances, select dates with US doomsayers Pallbearer and Sweden’s finest classic rockers Graveyard, and to top it all off will also see Philly’s trippiest Ruby The Hatchet joining the ride for a number of dates including all UK shows.

Cosmic Europe 2018 – Mission 2.0
August
Thursday 2nd – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso (w/ Ruby The Hatchet)
Friday 3rd – Beelen, DE – Krach am Bach Festival
Saturday 4th – Waldhausen im Strudengau, AT – Lake On Fire Festival *SOLD OUT*
Monday 6th – Primosten, CR – SuperUho Festival
Wednesday 8th – Budapest, HUN – A38 (w/ Pallbearer)
Friday 10th – Siegen, DE – Vortex Club
Saturday 11th – Moledo, PT – SonicBlast Moledo Festival
Tuesday 14th – Bagnes, CH – Palp Festival (w/ Graveyard)
Wednesday 15th – Winterhur, CH – Gaswerk (w/ Pallbearer)

EARTHLESS
09/25/18 Eugene, OR – Old Nick’s Pub
09/26/18 Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
09/27/18 Portland, OR – Dante’s
09/28/18 Boise, ID – Neurolux
09/29/18 Salt Lake City, UT – CRUCIAL FEST
09/30/18 Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
10/02/18 Minneapolis, MN – Lee’s Liquor Lounge
10/03/18 Winnipeg, MB – Park Theatre
10/05/18 Saskatoon, SK – Amigos Cantina
10/06/18 Edmonton, AB – UP & DOWNTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL
10/07/18 Calgary, AB – Dickens Pub
10/09/18 Victoria, BC – The Copper Owl
10/10/18 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
10/12/18 Oakland, CA – Starline Social Club
10/13/18 Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar
10/14/18 Desert Daze – DESERT DAZE

Black Heaven was recorded at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, Calif. with Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal) handling production.It marked a shift for the band, with four of the six songs featuring vocals whereas earlier albums only occasionally had vocals.

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Hey, It’s Been a Couple Weeks, so Here’s Another Earthless Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless

It’s been, you know, a little bit since the last time Earthless announced a tour in support of this year’s most righteous Black Heaven (review here), so yeah, they’re due. The West Coast kingpin three-piece will hit up their regional stopping ground beginning at the end of September and head toward the Desert Daze fest on Oct. 14. It’s one of several fests they’re playing on the efficient run, as they’ll also make stops at ever-tantalizing Crucial Fest in Salt Lake City and in Alberta at the Downtown Music Festival, which is one of several Canadian dates on what might legitimately be called a West Coast North American run. Also worth noting is the fact that they’ll be joined by the Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show for the stint, so you can be guaranteed awesome visuals as well as seeing one of the US’ most powerful heavy rock acts at an inarguable height of their craft.

Fucking gorgeous tour poster and the dates follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

earthless tour poster

EARTHLESS announces North American headlining tour

San Diego-based rock trio EARTHLESS, will headline a series of dates across North America this fall in support of the latest album, Black Heaven. Confirmed dates are as follows:

EARTHLESS
09/25/18 Eugene, OR – Old Nick’s Pub
09/26/18 Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
09/27/18 Portland, OR – Dante’s
09/28/18 Boise, ID – Neurolux
09/29/18 Salt Lake City, UT – CRUCIAL FEST
09/30/18 Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
10/02/18 Minneapolis, MN – Lee’s Liquor Lounge
10/03/18 Winnipeg, MB – Park Theatre
10/05/18 Saskatoon, SK – Amigos Cantina
10/06/18 Edmonton, AB – UP & DOWNTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL
10/07/18 Calgary, AB – Dickens Pub
10/09/18 Victoria, BC – The Copper Owl
10/10/18 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
10/12/18 Oakland, CA – Starline Social Club
10/13/18 Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar
10/14/18 Desert Daze – DESERT DAZE

Previously announced UK/European tour:
29 July: Birmingham UK – Hare & Hounds Kings Heath %
30 July: Glasgow UK – The Classic Grand %
31 July: Leeds UK – Brudenell Social Club %
01 Aug: Brighton UK – The Haunt Brighton %
02 Aug: Amsterdam NL – Paradiso Amsterdam %
03 Aug: Beelen DE – Krach am Bach Festival
04 Aug: Waldhausen im Strudengau AT – Lake on Fire Festival
06 Aug: Primošten CR – SuperUho Festival
08 Aug: Budapest HR – A38 Hajó $
11 Aug: Moledo PT – SonicBlast Moledo
14 Aug: Bagnes CH – PALP festival Rocklette &
15 Aug: Winterthur CH – Gaswerk *

Black Heaven was recorded at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, Calif. with Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal) handling production.It marked a shift for the band, with four of the six songs featuring vocals whereas earlier albums only occasionally had vocals.

“It wasn’t a premeditated thing to do a record with vocals,” said Rubalcaba. “On the older records, Mike was responsible for a lot of the riffs that would start these jams, but on this one Isaiah [Mitchell] really brought his own pizazz and flavor to it. I’d say that’s one of the major differences on this album: It has more of Isaiah’s input. He took a risk bringing these ideas to us, not knowing if we’d like them. But as with everything we’ve done in the past, it felt very organic and natural.”

Earthless is Mike Eginton (bass), Isaiah Mitchell (vocals/guitar) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums).

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Earthless, “Volt Rush” official video

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Earthless Announce Even More Touring in Support of Black Heaven

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Having just wrapped one European tour alongside Comet Control by playing as artists-in-residence at this year’s Roadburn festival — three sets of their own and guest spots with other bands — Earthless have announced another string of Euro dates to follow their US run that begins the end of this month. This time, they’ll play slots at SonicBlast Moledo 2018 (as previously discussed) and Lake on Fire 2018 among others, and do shows with the likes of Ruby the HatchetGraveyard and Pallbearer as they continue to spread the gospel of their latest offering, Black Heaven (review here), which as I think I’ve probably said upwards of 30 times at this point, is also their debut on Nuclear Blast.

I gotta say, however you might feel about Earthless putting vocals on a record or whatever, or however you might feel about the band generally, they’re doing an absolutely insane amount of touring thus far for Black Heaven, and between the work they’re continuing to put in and the massive influence they’ve had over an entire league of West Coast heavy — which also had a slot at Roadburn; yes, the whole league — it’s hard at this point not to think of them as one of the American underground’s most crucial bands.

Pure and simple, they’re killing it. All year. More and more.

Here are the dates as posted by the band on the social medias:

earthless tour poster

JUST ANNOUNCED: August Euro/UK headline shows + festival dates!!! Ruby the Hatchet will be supporting us in the UK and on a couple of Euro club shows, plus we’ve got two gigs with Pallbearer. And Graveyard and us will be teaming up at PALP festival Rocklette, which will be sweeet. Tickets available now for all dates, get yrs SOON! (killer flyer by Branca Studio)

29 July: Birmingham UK – Hare & Hounds Kings Heath %
30 July: Glasgow UK – The Classic Grand %
31 July: Leeds UK – Brudenell Social Club %
01 Aug: Brighton UK – The Haunt Brighton %
02 Aug: Amsterdam NL – Paradiso Amsterdam %
03 Aug: Beelen DE – Krach am Bach Festival
04 Aug: Waldhausen im Strudengau AT – Lake on Fire Festival
06 Aug: Primošten CR – SuperUho Festival
08 Aug: Budapest HR – A38 Hajó $
11 Aug: Moledo PT – SonicBlast Moledo
14 Aug: Bagnes CH – PALP festival Rocklette &
15 Aug: Winterthur CH – Gaswerk *

%: w/ Ruby the Hatchet
$: w/ Pallbearer
&: w/ Graveyard
*: w/ Pallbearer + Ruby the Hatchet

Previously announced tour dates:
EARTHLESS 2ND LEG BLACK HEAVEN TOUR:
May 31 Detroit, MI El Club
June 1 Nelsonville, OH Nelsonville Music Festival
June 2 Louisville, KY Zanzabar
June 3 Morgantown, WV 123 Pleasant Street
June 5 Asheville, NC The Mothlight
June 6 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
June 7 Spartanburg, SC Ground Zero
June 8 Orlando, FL Will’s Pub
June 9 Tallahassee, FL The Wilbury
June 10 Baton Rouge, LA The Spanish Moon
June 12 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall
June 13 Austin, TX Barracuda
June 14 Ft. Worth, TX Ridglea Room
June 15 Memphis, TN Growler’s

All U.S. non-festival dates with Here Lies Man except Detroit (Timmy’s Organism and The Octopus open)

August 3 Beelen, Germany Krach am Bach
August 10 Moledo, Portugal Sonic Blast

Earthless is Mike Eginton (bass), Isaiah Mitchell (vocals/guitar) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums).

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Earthless, “Volt Rush” official video

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Earthless Announce More US Touring for May/June

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless ed dominick

Earthless — who are currently embroiled in a European run alongside Comet Control that should be called the ‘Fucking A, This Pairing is Awesome and Everyone Should Go See It’ Tour and will land the San Diego trio at Roadburn, where they’ll serve as artists-in-residence — have announced their next batch of US tour dates supporting their new album, Black Heaven (review here). The band recently wrapped a US stint with Kikagaku Moyo and JJUUJJUU, and as they go from May into June, they’ll be bringing along Here Lies Man for the majority of the dates who are — wait for it — also fucking awesome.

If you think your brain can handle the righteousness, the PR wire submits the following:

earthless tour

EARTHLESS ANNOUNCE NEXT LEG OF U.S. TOUR DATES

BLACK HEAVEN AVAILABLE NOW: http://nblast.de/EarthlessBlackHeavenNB

Earthless, who recently released their Nuclear Blast debut, Black Heaven, have added a second leg of U.S. tour dates, kicking off on May 31 at Detroit’s El Club.

“Our new album, Black Heaven, is out now and we’re super excited to get out on the road again to play the Nelsonville Music Festival plus a bunch of U.S. headline shows in spots we haven’t hit yet,” said Mario Rubalcaba. “Stoked to burn through some new tunes for you all! Tell your friends and hope to see you at the shows!” News of the U.S. outing comes as the band kicks off a European tour in support of the album, launching the three-week leg with a show tomorrow night in Belgium.

Continuing in a series of firsts, the San Diego-based outfit offered up their first ever music video recently as well, with the clip for “Volt Rush”. The video features mythical skateboarder T-Spliff (aka Taylor Smith) as he boards across San Diego and neighboring Oceanside, visiting a number of favorite hometown locales. “Volt Rush” was directed by skateboard/visual artist BB Bastidas.

EARTHLESS w/ COMET CONTROL:
Apr 5 – Manchester, UK @ The Deaf Institute
Apr 6 – London, UK @ Islington Assembly Hall
Apr 7 – Paris, FR @ Petit Bain
Apr 8 – Frankfurt, DE @ Zoom
Apr 10 – Munich, DE @ Feierwerk
Apr 11 – Berlin, DE @ Bi Nuu
Apr 12 – Copenhagen, DK @ Pumpehuset
Apr 13 – Oslo, NO @ BLA
Apr 14 – Gothenberg, SE @ Truckstop Alaska
Apr 16 – Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Apr 19 – Tilburg, NE @ ROADBURN 2018
Apr 20 – Tilburg, NE @ ROADBURN 2018
Apr 21 – Tilburg, NE @ ROADBURN 2018

EARTHLESS 2ND LEG BLACK HEAVEN TOUR:
May 31 Detroit, MI El Club
June 1 Nelsonville, OH Nelsonville Music Festival
June 2 Louisville, KY Zanzabar
June 3 Morgantown, WV 123 Pleasant Street
June 5 Asheville, NC The Mothlight
June 6 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
June 7 Spartanburg, SC Ground Zero
June 8 Orlando, FL Will’s Pub
June 9 Tallahassee, FL The Wilbury
June 10 Baton Rouge, LA The Spanish Moon
June 12 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall
June 13 Austin, TX Barracuda
June 14 Ft. Worth, TX Ridglea Room
June 15 Memphis, TN Growler’s

All U.S. non-festival dates with Here Lies Man except Detroit (Timmy’s Organism and The Octopus open)

August 3 Beelen, Germany Krach am Bach
August 10 Moledo, Portugal Sonic Blast

Earthless is Mike Eginton (bass), Isaiah Mitchell (vocals/guitar) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums).

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Earthless, “Volt Rush” official video

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Earthless Post “Volt Rush” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless

Just how West Coast is it? Well, it’s West Coast enough to feature a professional skateboarder jumping over garbage cans dressed as a pizza-themed superhero, if that answers your question. Which it should. Sorry, that shit just doesn’t happen in Philadelphia.

San Diego heavy psych ambassadors Earthless issued their new album, Black Heaven (review here), last week via Nuclear Blast, and somehow, the clip below for “Volt Rush” strikes me as something of a victory lap to mark the occasion. Unlike much of the record, the track is instrumental, but it’s also only two and a half minutes long and so still represents some of the overarching change of approach that’s become so much of the narrative of the record — Earthless daring to not bask in their 20-minute, epic-as-all-hell instrumental songcrat and instead offer verses, choruses, and a piece like “Volt Rush,” which is there and gone before you even really have time to notice it’s Mad Alchemy doing the psychedelic lighting for the band’s show in the clip. Which, incidentally, it is.

As for the narrative, it looks like a hell of a day for Volt Pizza Man, played by pro skater Taylor Smith, and whatever cool tricks happen along the way — though I’ll give both the band and director BB Bastidas credit for not just making it look like a sponsor-me skate demo — the story ends (spoiler ahead) with Smith getting tossed on his ass out back of the Casbah, which my understanding is where it’s at when it comes to San Diego venues. That’s what I’m told, anyhow.

“Volt Rush,” though, lives up to its name, and the quick push through it makes it just right for the average YouTube attention span. Earthless are of course on tour now in the US and will head overseas next month to feature at Roadburn 2018 as artists-in-residence and leaders — suitably enough — of what’s been dubbed the “San Diego takeover,’ with JoyHarsh TokeArcticPetyr and others taking part.

Dates follow the clip below, as per the PR wire:

Earthless, “Volt Rush” official video

Earthless, who are in the midst of a North American tour in support of their new album Black Heaven, debut their video for “Volt Rush.”

The video, which is set in Earthless’ hometown of San Diego, as well as neighboring Oceanside, was directed by skateboard/visual artist BB Bastidas and features the famed SoCal skateboarder T-Spliff (aka Taylor Smith).

“Stoked to present to you the very first Earthless video, directed by artist BB Bastidas,” said drummer Mario Rubalcaba. “We were stoked to work with BB on this as he knows our background as a band and our close roots with skateboarding. His art is amazing and he also has a keen natural eye for film. Having Taylor Smith, aka T-Spliff, in it just makes it even sweeter. He is somewhat of a mythical figure of a skater, an amazing talent but chooses to shred at his own discretion. Those who know, know. This was a blast to be a part of and we hope you enjoy this short high energy rocker that cruises around our hometown of San Diego, and local club, The Casbah.”

Black Heaven is the band’s first release to feature a majority of songs with vocals and is also the trio’s first time working with producer Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal). Rubalcaba explains the impact the Joshua Tree studio had on the outfit’s new music: “This album represents yet another branch on the ever growing and now adolescent Earthless tree. I spent a good amount of time just gazing at the stars at night while we were out recording in the desert of Joshua Tree. I think this somehow lent itself to the title and feel of the album on some songs. This LP has a touch more of our classic rock roots showing, just stuff we grew up on and it’s great to finally utilize Isaiah’s lyrical talent and soulful voice. As cliché as it sounds – Black Heaven should be played LOUD.”

Earthless tour dates:
March 20 Washington, DC Rock’n’Roll Hotel
March 21 Richmond, VA The Broadberry
March 22 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge
March 23 St. Louis, MO Blueberry Hill
March 24 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
March 25 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
*All North American tour dates with Kikagaku Moyo and JJUUJJUU

April 3 Korkrijk, Belgium De Kreun
April 4 Bristol, UK The Fleece
April 5 Manchester, UK The Deaf Institute
April 6 London, UK Islington Assembly Hall
April 7 Paris, France Petit Bain
April 8 Frankfurt, Germany Zoom
April 10 Munich, Germany Feierwerk
April 11 Berlin, Germany Bi Nuu
April 12 Copenhagen, Denmark Pumpehuset
April 13 Oslo, Norway BLA
April 14 Gothenberg, Sweden Truckstop Alaska
April 16 Hamburg, Germany Molotow
April 19-21 Tilburg, Netherlands Roadburn 2018
*All European, non-Roadburn dates with Comet Control

June 1 Nelsonville, OH Nelsonville Music Festival
August 10 Moledo, Portugal Sonic Blast

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Earthless, Black Heaven: Gifts of the Wind

Posted in Reviews on March 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

earthless black heaven

There will be those who decry the stylistic changes that San Diego — and really, the West Coast as a whole — heavy psych forerunners Earthless make on their fourth album, Black Heaven, which, with its somewhat quizzical title, also marks the trio’s debut on Nuclear Blast after a longer term alignment with Tee Pee that ran right up to 2016’s Acid Crusher / Mount Swan split (review here) with jammy acolytes Harsh Toke. The use of vocals in a major way for the first time, the paring down of song structures as compared to the massive sprawling righteousness that Earthless‘ reputation has been built on to this point will be departures that no doubt will have some in their fanbase calling them sellouts. This position, in this instance as in at least 85 percent of all instances as regards underground bands, is dumb. When Earthless start doing infomercials for electric scissors, maybe they will have sold out.

Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell wants to sing on four out of the six tracks on a 40-minute record? That’s not selling out. That’s a simple shift in approach. And here’s the thing: I can just about guarantee that for every longtime Earthless follower who refuses to get on board with the hook of “End to End” or opener “Gifted by the Wind,” two new heads will be turned onto what they’re doing for the first time. They’re not selling out. They’re reaching out. And I know they’re not the first group to link up with Nuclear Blast and undergo a stylistic change — see also Witchcraft, Graveyard, Blues Pills and Kadavar modernizing their production methods away from their initial vintage sounds — but even if the label had a hand in making the shift take place, Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba do nothing but thrive in the context of these songs. Want to call it a sellout because it’s not what you’re used to? Not what they did on 2013’s From the Ages (review here)? Fine. But you’re the one who’s losing out, not the band.

Mitchell‘s voice will be familiar enough to anyone who’s experienced either of the two full-lengths he’s put out with his other band, Golden Void, and he largely keeps to the same approach here — classic rock in style, soulful but not overdone, tastefully and willfully imperfect in its execution. He sounds live in the tradition of early heavy rock as he tops the initial push of “Gifted by the Wind” and the ultra-catchy boogie of “End to End,” and in one of Black Heaven‘s greatest points of success, the album has managed to distill the vast spread of prior Earthless output — that feeling of every single second being the most awesome moment of the classic heavy rock jam; crescendo piled on top of crescendo in a hypnotic instrumental torrent — into structured songcraft. “Gifted by the Wind” is only six minutes long, “End to End” only five, and the subsequent side A closer “Electric Flame” is the longest track on the LP at 9:05, but it’s not about song length anymore; it’s about what Earthless do with that time. “End to End” opens atmospherically but soon crashes into a threatening wash of feedback and cymbals before launching after the 1:30 mark into its central riff, which is among the most memorable the band has ever produced and joyously raucous in its circular motion. In short, it sounds like they’re having a blast, and subtle layering in Mitchell‘s vocals only add to the Hendrixian spirit as a whole.

earthless

A couple verses belted out lead to a guitar solo and instrumental finish that one senses could probably keep going for as long as the band wants it to in a live setting, but is certainly enough to get the wah-soaked, ass-shaking point across, Rubalcaba turning in a particularly engaging performance. The aforementioned side A closer “Electric Flame” is immediately more subdued, but still takes off on a rush of its own shortly, the time spent in the intro heading toward a more straightforward groove that is graceful in its turns but still rough-sounding along the edges — a balance of danger and surehandedness that Earthless carry through an early jam before turning back to the verse at the halfway point and taking off shortly after five minutes in on the mostly-instrumental stretch that rounds out in fashion no less immersive than they’ve ever been, of course with Mitchell‘s unmitigated at the fore punctuated by Rubalcaba‘s drums as Eginton‘s bass provides the foundation to which they smoothly return near the finish. Like the best of its ilk, it sounds like it’s about to completely fly apart and never does.

The same applies for the sub-two-minute “Volt Rush,” which is essentially a quick, layered-solo embodiment of its title — fast, full-thrust, all-go. It’s the kind of thing Earthless might’ve done for 13 minutes or so on 2008’s Live at Roadburn (discussed here), but even in playing to their classic methods, they’re changing how that happens, emphasizing quickly the trio dynamic between Mitchell, Eginton and Rubalcaba that has made them the arguable godfathers and key influence of the crowded West Coast scene that has sprouted in their wake. As much as it takes “Volt Rush” 1:56 to remind of that, I doubt many will complain as the following nine-minute title-track puts further emphasis on the point. An instrumental push that starts and offers no letup, its bleed directly through to closer “Sudden End” ties what one might think of as the two sides of the band presented on Black Heaven together.

After the fervency of the title-track, “Sudden End” takes a more laid back, bluesy approach and holds to a mid-paced tempo, and the vocals return to top a cloudy-beach psychedelia that fascinates all the more because of the choice it represents on the part of the band not to cap with a blowout, but with a easier flow carried by Eginton‘s bass and a relatively simplified drum progression from Rubalcaba. I won’t say it’s the biggest surprise of the album, but it does bring to mind the notion that as far outside their comfort zone as Earthless reach here — let’s face it, they could’ve put out an hour-long LP of three extended instrumentals and been hailed as gods for it — there’s still farther they can go, and new modes of expression to yet be explored. Earthless have always been songwriters, but they’ve never brought that into focus like they do on Black Heaven, and while it’s certain to divide some of the band’s followers, their boldness and their level of craft both come through stronger than ever before here. An absolute contender for the best album of 2018.

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