Bleak Recordings/Division Records – 22nd September 2017
Black Earth is pitched as and expansion on their previous releases, and as ‘a sonic mammoth that pushes their music even further into new dimensions of heaviness, harshness and despair.’ We also learn that ‘the lyrical themes are directly related to the presence and function of men in the planet and, particularly man himself.’ Given that man has pretty much singlehandedly fucked up the planet – creating the ‘black earth’ of the title, it’s small wonder that this is a work of seething fury edged with self-loathing and guilt.
‘(No) Shelter’ hammers out an industrial metal trudge reminiscent of Godflesh and perhaps even hints at early Pitchshifter, the mechanised drum explosions slicing through a wall of low-end grind that’s countered by tripwire guitars with some attacking treble. From the relentless, rhythm-driven maelstrom, vocals howl pure blackened nihilism. It’s a punishing eight and a half minutes and a brutal way to open an album.
‘Feral Ground’ plunges deeper into doomy drone in the opening bars before a pulsating throb of battering ram percussion and churning guitars and bass blended into a thick wall of sonic clay. It’s all about the chunky chop ‘n’ thud, stuttering, stop/start riffs, the trudging grind. One can trace a lineage of brutally nihilistic music which achieves absolute catharsis by simply bludgeoning the listener with brute force, and which possesses a tangible physicality from Swans’ initial phase, through Godflesh and Pitchshifter via Earth to Sunn O))). It’s within this context that Process Of Guilt introduce elements of Neurosis’ gnarly organic enormity to the slow pounding fury of their precursors.
On ‘Servant’, the guitars shriek in tortured anguish, the notes bent out of shape into howls of feedback while the rhythm section pounds on, hard. The twelve-minute title track is a relentless succession of sledgehammer blows, tearing guitar chords and straining feedback, and provides the album with a towering centrepiece.
The fifth and final track, ‘Hoax’ is a trudging dirge of a tune, nihilistic fury distilled and dragged to around 60BPM.
Black Earth is bleak, and it’s heavy, and it feels like the end of days.