Since guitarist Dylan Carlson re-formed Earth in 2003, the one constant has been endless exploration. From the exploded desert-like Americana atmospheres of Hex: Or Printing the Infernal Method right through the Angels of Darkness: Demons of Light series with their string players, Carlson and his collaborators have regarded tone, texture, dynamic, and space as elastic elements rife for inquiry. Through it all, Earth have retained a signature: their sound remains instantly identifiable. Primitive and Deadly integrates many of the musical tenets that have appeared on those previous recordings and combines them into a seamless -- albeit much heavier -- whole. Opener "Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon" is their weightiest cut since re-formation. Using a chugging, doomy, gargantuan riff, Carlson, drummer Adrienne Davies, bassist Bill Herzog, and additional guitarist Brett Nelson (Built to Spill) thunder along a tense, fuzz-blown path where guitar harmonics, distortion, and post-psych blues swell around the rhythm section's quake. Mark Lanegan's vocals on "There Is a Serpent Coming" add exponentially to the platform. Fat glacial riffs, feedback, processional drums, and illustrative guitar effects frame his grainy voice and its apocalyptic occult narrative inside a blown-out, bluesy, cinematic Western style. The set's centerpiece -- and longest cut -- "From the Zodiacal Light" weds doom metal's minimalism to a ferociously textured post-psych roar. The thudding chords and wrung-out single notes offer vocalist Rabia Shaheen Qazi (Rose Windows) a plateau to ascend, and she does. Her melodic elocution is as fierce as the wah-wah whammy bar and the sonic overdrive that whirl around her. The other instrumental here, "Even Hell Has Its Heroes," melds Carlson's sense of slow, weighty riff exposition and love of Jimi Hendrix's unhinged blues style. His lead guitar squall explores various tonal voicings within a two-chord vamp for over ten minutes. Layered, controlled feedback covers the backdrop as his bandmates hold it down. The sounds of bells and eerie chimes introduce "Rooks Across the Gate" as waves of dissonant thirds throb across the front; a minimal lead guitar statement sounds almost glissando contrasted with the sheer weight of the tune's riff. Lanegan adds a Celtic melodic inference in his weathered delivery to carry the haunted narrative. Randall Dunn's Moog assists in illuminating Carlson's high-register fills to create another lyric voice, and soars above fingerpicked and strummed chords by Nelson and guest Jodie Cox (the Narrows). Davies uses the bell on her ride cymbal to underscore each repetitive passage until fadeout. Earth's massive, plodding, serpentine approach on Primitive and Deadly reflects a new focus on lyric euphony and a renewed commitment to corporeal force. The pervasive, blinding darkness that saturates this bleak, sublime music is driven by the band's collective desire to seek ecstasy in the very heart of the void.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek