If you’ve come here expecting a discussion of classic literature or descriptions of Chinese peasant life, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. But that’s somewhat appropriate because disappointment is one of the major themes of the story I’m about to tell you.
However, the title of this article (which I’ve stolen from the book pictured here) is intended to illustrate a comparative concept: that to the extent that there is a “Good Earth,” it logically follows that there would exist a “Not-So-Good Earth.” Bear with me, it’ll all make sense soon enough. Probably.
* * * * * * *
“The Good Earth“: Southern Lord to Reissue Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull on Limited Edition Vinyl
So this past weekend, I ventured out to a record shop — which has been one of my favorite things to do for well over twenty years, ever since I was old enough to get dropped off to hang out with friends at the mall back in middle school. Physical music stores have been dying off at an alarming rate since then, but around here we still have a few decent choices. The ones that I visit most frequently are part of a small regional chain called The Exchange, where you can buy/sell/trade a wide variety of new and used CDs/vinyl/DVDs/games. I’ve been known to spend literally dozens of minutes poring over their metal section. And on numerous occasions I’ve ended up going home with something that I had read about on some blog or other, or even sometimes it’s been something that I myself had written about (almost all of my writing is based on digital promos, but when I like something enough to want to keep a copy for recreational listening later, I definitely prefer to buy a physical version — call me old fashioned if you like, I don’t care).
It was on one such excursion several years ago that I happened across a CD copy of Earth‘s 2008 full-length The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (pictured above, right). I’d vaguely heard of this band before, and they had been universally praised anytime I’d ever read about them (which admittedly was very few times). Ultimately, it was that incredible Arik Roper painting on the cover that pushed me to take a chance on the album. And I couldn’t be more glad that I did.
I can think of no word that better describes the sounds contained on this album than simply “gorgeous.” From the opening droning note that fades in to be quickly replaced by a grand euphony of psychedelic guitars with piano and subtle hints of organ, until each of these elements gradually fades away some 50+ minutes later, this disc’s seven compositions are nothing shy of breathtaking beauty.
From the first time I heard it, however many years ago, and each successive time since, I’ve absolutely loved this album. It’s one of those cases where I regret my limited ability to describe in words how what I’m hearing makes me feel, and I really believe it’d only really make sense to you if you listen for yourself. Please check out this YouTube stream of the full album (which is an unofficially uploaded version, for which I apologize, but this is the only place I could find where you could hear the whole thing):
Now, it was with this in mind that I spied another Earth CD for sale a few days ago: an old used copy of their 1996 Sub Pop release Pentastar: In the Style of Demons (pictured above, left), marked at the super-tempting price of five dollars. In the time since my earlier purchase, I’ve learned a bit more about the band’s history: including the fact that bandleader Dylan Carlson has worked with a number of different musicians over the years under that banner, and that his musical output is generally divided into two main periods, the earlier of which was primarily drone metal (and well-known as having have been the primary influence on Sunn O))), a group whose popularly and appeal never cease to confound this writer, as any attempt I’ve made to listen to their recordings has always resulted in a feeling of complete ennui). Nevertheless, given how much I enjoyed the later album I already owned, and the fact that the Encyclopaedia Metallum and Wikipedia both hinted at Pentastar being fundamentally different from the rest of Earth‘s earlier (pre-hiatus) output — in that this featured more of a traditional rock band line-up, in addition to some vocals — I thought it was probably worth the gamble. Boy, was I wrong.
The first track started out innocently enough: with some hard-rock-metal sort of riffage that hinted at developing into something really cool. Unfortunately, after more than four minutes of hinting but never deviating appreciably from the initial repeated grooves, throwing a little bit of organ into the mix for the final thirty seconds or so hardly qualified as developing into anything at all. And sadly, it only went downhill from there, each song less engrossing and less memorable than the one before. Even the version of the Jimi Hendrix instrumental “Peace in Mississippi” failed to grab my attention to any real extent; following this, the penultimate track literally consisted solely of the exact same alternating piano chords repeated for a full seven minutes — or at least as much of that time as I lasted before deciding to give up on this album entirely.
I hate to write negatively about anything — I have enough good music enqueued to share on this website to last several lifetimes (at the rate I’ve been going lately), so there’s hardly any sense wasting time on something that doesn’t appeal to me and doesn’t really warrant sharing. But in this case I felt so utterly let down (the last time I remember having my expectations so completely unmet was when I snagged a copy of Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell‘s solo effort Boggy Depot), I just had to share the story of my disappointment. Call it a cautionary tale, if you will.
But I’m happy to report, not everything I have to share with you is bad news. I recently learned that Southern Lord will be putting out a brand-new vinyl reissue of the masterpiece The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull very soon! Here’s a photo of the faux-leather-bound exterior (which encases a standard gatefold 2xLP sleeve with the beautiful original artwork):
The reissue is limited to only 2500 copies (and last I checked there were under 200 remaining!) so I’d highly advise you to pre-order yours today!
* * * * * * *
Earth website: http://www.thronesanddominions.com/
Southern Lord website: http://www.southernlord.com/