Of Earth’s Ferocious Underground Art-Rock Masterpiece
Today’s free download is Heart of the Hard Drive, by New York heavy rock band Of Earth. Albums this good usually cost money, and if the band ever decided to charge for this, it would be worth shelling out a few bucks for. As it is, now’s your chance to grab this masterpiece of heavy, melodic 21st century art-rock.
The album’s actually been out for a couple of years. A casual listener might hear this and think of the Mars Volta, and while this album has a handful of syncopated spiderwalk guitar lines and tense stalker interludes, it’s a lot more anthemic than it is proggy. Pink Floyd is an obvious influence – as is Black Sabbath, lingering in the distance – but through the prism of dreampop as well as 90s stadium rock bands like Ride. Paul Casanova’s dense, towering, majestic walls of multitracked guitar echo and resonate over Rik De Luca’s smartly terse drums, along with singer Rob De Luca’s equally terse, judicious bass. In music this ornate and orchestral, you might assume that the vocals would be grandiose and over the top, but no: they’re nonchalant to the point of being laid-back.
And the songs match the level of the playing. The title track builds a wall of guitars methodically over rolling drums, Matt Baram’s ominous organ enriching the dark core. Chords mingle and burn, an acidic, David Gilmour-esque phrase suddenly becomes savage over the hypnotic roar. It’s not clear what the song is about: “The heart of the hard drive is dead, she had such a beautiful machine.”
Motor, Wing and Muscle works its way up from a distorted stalker riff as the bass picks up, layers of guitas ringing, echoing, throbbing: “bring it on, bring it on” is the mantra. Like the Church covering Blue Oyster Cult circa 1988, the guitars rise as the organ holds the center: “turning ugly, ugly as sin,” the bassist intones casually. The searing, explosive bridge and then the angst-fueled lead line that drives the closing crescendo are a visceral thrill.
With its ringing, echoing atmospherics , catchy hook and slow syncopated sway, Disconnect from Your Name could be the great lost track from the Church’s Starfish album, building to a macabre bass lead half-hidden behind a wall of roar as the song winds out. Become Whar You Are is a big anthemic riff-rocker, the minor-key interlude midway through lit up by a vicious, all-too-brief, menacingly shivery, Neil Young-flavored guitar solo. With its completely macabre organ-and-guitar intro and distantly glam-fueled, Bowie-esque grandeur, On the News allusively tells the story of someone whose “baby doll’s broken…this is the time, this is the moment, what’s on your mind, now you can shot it.” They keep you hanging for a punchline.
What Is Fair kicks off with a flurry of nasty tremolo-picking, pulses along on a tense single-note riff, winds down to a slow, dreamily menacing keyboard-fueled interlude and then back up to a majestic, anguished guitar solo that references David Gilmour all over the place – and completely nails the awestruck, horror-stricken mood. They follow that with a richly psychedelic, menacing anthem, Gypsy Moth, the guitars shedding feedback and reverb like a poisonous isotope, moving up from echoey Rhodes piano and broodidng organ and back again. The longest song is Still Life on Mars/Above, an alienated epic that begins as a march, working its way through a haunted series of variations to a scorching, explosive outro that adds one layer of angry, bitter guitar after another. The album closes with a minute-long guitar vamp on the fourth track, a disembodied outro of sorts.
Of Earth play Spike Hil on Nov 1 in the middle of a killer triplebill with 80s psychedelic janglepunk legends Band of Outsiders opening at 9 and another anthemic, artsy, psychedelic band, Musiciens Sans Frontieres following at 11.