Grand and foreboding, it's a truly epic return.
Louis Pattison 2008-01-16
Dylan Carlson has history. Back in the mid-'90s, this Seattle guitarist was something of a notorious figure - not just for the mix of super-stoned rock jams and sludgy, toxic experiments in minimal feedback drone he released, intermittently, on famed grunge label Sub Pop - but also for his close friendship with Nirvana's Kurt Cobain: A friendship that appeared to revolve around the pair's shared passion for heroin and guns. After Cobain's death, Carlson disappeared from view to struggle with his addiction in private. More recently, though, he's re-emerged, apparently clean, with a new record deal (with Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson's experimental metal imprint Southern Lord). He's also emerged with a new sound that sees the old Earth hallmarks – mammoth, lumbering tempos and slow, shuddering drones – reinterpreted in a new style inspired by country-rock, blues, and the barren Americana vibes of Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack.
One suspects Hibernaculum exists as a symbol of everything that's changed. A CD/DVD set, it comprises of three old Earth songs, Oroboros Is Broken, Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor, and Miami Morning Coming Down, one new song – the mighty A Plague Of Angels – and a DVD documentary (Within The Drone) that sees Carlson discussing his music and his inspirations. The documentary is missable, but the music is excellent. Carlson plays reverb-soaked twangs and slow, revolving guitar motifs drenched in fuzz. But it's his interplay with other musicians that's really startling; with the slow, trudging drum advance and shimmering cymbal crashes of Adreinne Davies, with Steve Moore's lonely trombone and warm, trilling Wurlitzer. The overall effect is something like a doom metal band soundtracking a particularly corpse-strewn spaghetti western; one where the cowboys all die and their corpses are picked clean by vultures. Grand and foreboding, it's a truly epic return.