Something Wicked We Become: A Lesson in Purity from Earthride

With Earthride, those who know already know what they’re going to get. Hell, it’s the bands slogan: “Pure Maryland doom for the brotherhood of music,” and if there’s a more accurate for the style in which the four-piece traffics, I’ve yet to hear it. On their third album in eight years, Something Wicked (released through their own Earth Brain Records), Earthride reaffirms their status as one of the most positively toxic stoner doom bands the US has to offer. Led by charismatic frontman Dave Sherman (ex-Spirit Caravan, Wretched), they leave a mark that is unmistakably their own, as though the songs were branding a backpatch onto your forehead.

Groove is central on Something Wicked. In many ways it’s the whole core of Earthride’s sound. Guitarist Kyle Van Steinburg has a tone so Orange you can’t rhyme with it, and the rhythm section of drummer Eric Little and bassist Rob Hampshire (Nitroseed) do an excellent job rounding out the material and evoking an even thicker, more viscous sound on tracks like opener “Something Wicked” and “Hacksaw Eyeball.” This is nothing new, but not everything is business as usual for Earthride, as Something Wicked finds Sherman trying out some new approaches vocally – growling occasionally and seeming to collapse into a melodic kind of yowl not too distant from Wino or Phil Anselmo’s on the last Down album, but frankly, more suited to what Earthride are doing song-wise.

As always, Earthride’s songs are uncomplicated and easy to hear. They vary in terms of lasting appeal – “Grip the Wheel,” “Zodiac” and the slower “Supernatural Illusion” are highlights – but on Something Wicked, Earthride is always Earthride, and that’s what you listen to Earthride for. It’s as much about the band’s personality (arguably an extension of Sherman’s persona) as it is about dooming out, and yet there’s nothing pretentious in Earthride’s presentation. When Sherman advises you to “Embrace the dragon’s magic,” in the acoustic opening of “Zodiac,” I may have only the vaguest idea of what he’s talking about, but I believe he means it. And as much as the band is his show, Van Steinburg’s performance on guitar on “Zodiac” and elsewhere has to be noted as a standout of the album. Whether it’s rhythm or lead, his hands are a major factor in Something Wicked’s ultimate success.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the guest appearance from Wino on “Supernatural Illusion,” but though that’s a late-album perk, it’s not what makes Something Wicked by any means. Rather, the best thing about the record seems to be that it’s Earthride playing it. After the five-year break since Vampire Circus, I’m just glad they put out another album. It’s not perfect – the balance in Sherman’s vocal layering leaves some to be desired on “Watch the Children Play” – but if it was, it would lose its charm. If there’s one thing Earthride isn’t about, it’s perfection. What you get on Something Wicked is genuinely human, flawed, imperfect and endlessly relatable. Hey man, it’s Earthride. If you signed on to be a fan of doom, you basically signed on to be a fan of Earthride, so you might as well start digging it now. There’s really no arguing against it.

Earthride on MySpace

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