After a long silence that suggested that Earth had called it quits, Dylan Carlson revived the group in the early 2000s for some live appearances. The timing was good -- groups like Sunn 0))), Boris, and Corrupted were all building on the epic guitar drone that Earth brought to prominence in the '90s. But there was a problem: the Earth of Earth 2 and its underrated sequel, Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions, was no more. The change to a more traditional rock approach was already evident on their last studio album, 1996's misunderstood Pentastar: In the Style of Demons. After Pentastar, though, Earth was all but lost in a mash of personal and legal woes. In 2002 Sunn Amps, a limited-run live album, was expanded and reissued, and Earth was suddenly alive again, touring the States and Europe. Their New York show and a radio appearance were taped and that is the material that makes up this album. The Earth lineup heard on Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword is more of an instrumental doom metal unit made up of Carlson on guitar and Adrienne Davies on drums. The guitar playing is loose and heavy, with Carlson channeling bits of both Tony Iommi and Danny Whitten. Carlson's ear for subterranean tone has always been a key factor in Earth's sound, if not the factor, and the shuttering distortion he wrings out on the opener, "Dissolution III," makes it clear that despite the long absence he is still in charge of his muse. The rest of the album is taken up by the hourlong epic title cut. "Living in the Gleam..." meanders between a riff that owes more to Jesus Lizard than Black Sabbath and loud open-chord alms to rock & roll's ruling demons. Davies provides steady, minimal backing that tows Carlson's guitar through the haze like a determined but overburdened tugboat. Cultish Earth fans hoping for another low-frequency knockout like Earth 2 might be disappointed by the more straightforward approach here, but less narrowly focused listeners will appreciate Living in the Gleam as a fine heir to the heavy underground rock tradition of Randy Holden, Crazy Horse, and Earth itself.
AllMusic Review by Wade Kergan