Earthless – “Black Heaven” (Nuclear Blast)
Oh wow maaaaaannnnnn, cosmic jams from San Diego! Formed at the turn of the century, these SoCal legends are considered the elite of today’s modern heavy psych scene, having built that reputation by being masters of the mind-bending jam session, evoking the spirits of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin in equal measure!!! Made up of veterans Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, OFF!) on drums, bassist Mike Eginton (Electric Nazarene) and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (Howlin’ Rain, Nebula, Drunk Horse, Golden Void), Earthless are named after a song title from vintage New York garage-psych band The Druids of Stonehenge. With tours across North America, Australia and Europe including a stint at the Roadburn Festival resulting in their live album, this 4th album see’s marked changes – although in my opinion, definitely for the better. Almost trademarked for their funky instrumental space rock jams, 4 of the 6 songs here actually feature vocals from guitarist Isaiah Mitchell! Furthermore, the length of the songs is much shorter with only 2 of the tracks hitting the 9 minute mark, while one of the instrumentals, the Southern boogie sounding ‘Volt Rush’ is under 2 minutes!! Additionally, the style has shifted a little to include a more straight up classic rock element in addition to the space rock – along with a desert rock vibe probably as a result of recording at Rancho de la Luna Studios in Joshua Tree, used by the likes of Kyuss and Masters of Reality. Well, it all works a treat with something for everybody really (including the band themselves) as Mitchell’s laid back vocals sit comfortably in the mix and don’t detract from the energy of the power grooves and most importantly, the energy flowing back and forth between the 3 guys here that has made them such a formidable jamming machine. This is applied magnificently across all the tracks, either in compression or their long drawn out style like on the title track ‘Black Heaven’, with its heavy bass and drums before Mitchell’s wailing guitar comes in and just trips you out to the light fantastic with its frenzied Hendrix like work – an awesome space rock epic! The dust of the desert soon becomes evident on the longest track ‘Electric Flame’ with its far out fuzzed tones and laid back style owed much to Mitchell’s vocals at the back of the mix, all of which adds to a rolling stoner groove, while on opener ‘Gifted By The Wind’ the grace of Zepp’s Plant and Page melds with the brilliance of Jerry Garcia with its funked up groove and syrup thick rolling riffs as Mitchell adds in some respectable hippy highs. Probably the most radical track is the album’s closer ‘Sudden End’ with its southern fried geetar, sullen tones and Mitchell’s matching saddened vocals although the emotional power culminating in a highly memorable chorus, while contrasting allow it to nevertheless sit comfortably with the other 5 incredible tracks on show here. “Black Heaven” shows Earthless becoming more concise and structured while keeping to their roots of tripped out insanity albeit in not such gargantuan measures as before.