Like any good pseudo-medieval village of our size and prosperity, we highfalutin peasants abide by a certain standard of hospitality. For those bands that pass through our palisade time and time again, we gladly offer up a spot at our roughly hewn and ovular-if-not-round table.
earthdiver are, without a doubt, such a band within the context of Sleeping Village lore. I personally have been a fan since hearing their rambunctious three-track EP, and was subsequently thrilled to have interviewed 'em. Hell, I'm wearing my earthdiver t-shirt as I scribble away--a pure coincidence born of the reality that I wear this shirt, like, at least once a week. Needless to say, this particular scribe has been very excited for the advent of their all-important debut album, both because I've been itching for new tracks, and because I'm excited for the stoner/doom community to witness the set of chops on this talented trio. The wait is over. Lord of the Cosmos is (almost!) here. Time for that hospitality.
While ostensibly fitting in with the stoner crowd, earthdiver feel quite unique in their approach--which, in and of itself, is a significant selling point in the veritable ocean of bands waving the smoggy doom banner. While the stalwart riffs of genre convention are certainly present, earthdiver--and Lord of the Cosmos in particular--excels at blending various sonic elements. In reviewing their prior EP, Leave Something Witchy, I stated that their formula takes “the smudgy groove of stoner metal and infuses it liberally with the glorious devil-may-care vivacity of punk--like if Pan, the God of the wild things, decided to throw away the pan pipes and start a garage band.” Here, in the context of a matured outfit, the rough-edged/nearly feral execution has been honed, but a punky ‘tude still lingers, particularly in the wild vocal delivery.
Otherwise, however, earthdiver have successfully hooked elements from various other influences, primarily from psychedelic waters. Indeed, the closest comparison that comes to mind after familiarizing myself to near-excess with this album is the more meandering side of Black Sabbath, be it bluesier throwbacks or the psychedelic exploration. As Eric Stuart (guitars/vox) asserted in our interview, earthdiver “incorporate[s] doom, groove, psychedelia, rock, thrash, and more so that we aren’t so one-dimensional.” That adherence to constructing songs outside the ho-hum stoner doom template allows Lord of the Cosmos to flow, breathe, and--perhaps most importantly--truly engage the listener. Nothing here feels overwrought, and the replay factor is ponderously high as a result.
As before, earthdiver give ample room for the low end to play, which lends a fabulous dynamism. The loose and thick application in the bass department allows for delicious contrast, considering that the guitar tone often plays outside the fuzz-ridden formula, evoking at times a crisp quality that reminds me more of Cream than any modern-day stoner outfit. The drums alternate between hollow and cymbal-laden, which works well to reinforce, respectively, the spacier moments (“Blood Moon,” for example) and the more frenetic and furious tracks (“God of the Gallows” being perhaps the most energetic of the lot.) The vox is worth a mention as well, as this is where earthdiver are their most gruff, raw and, at times, even a little vicious. Both the leads and backing vocals stand in stark contrast to the smooth riffage and astral atmosphere, lending the whole package that deliciously gritty edge that made Leave Something Witchy so intriguing in the first place. The yelps in the hands of lesser band might fare worse, but here, they just...work. Look to the first verse refrain on “Cut The Bone Away” for a prime example of the emotive punch. That said, the use of instrumental tracks and extended passages throughout was a smart move--in this way, the vocals serve to punctuate rather than tell the entire story from start to finish. If they were more present, they would overpower.
If I have a gripe with this album, said gripe is exceedingly minimal. Every time I’ve listened from front to back, I always get confused through the majority of Side A, as the more heavy pysch elements and primarily instrumental application allows track distinctions to feel somewhat intangible. This isn’t a bad thing in the moment, as I am inevitably caught in the groove as “Worlds Die Away,” “War Drums,” and “Cut The Bone Away” bear me away. But when I attempt to view them as separate tracks instead of movements in a larger scheme, I invariably find myself naming the incorrect song. In contrast, Side B features tracks that all stand on their own as institutions, melding well with their surroundings but nonetheless standing distinctly from that which came before, and that which follows after.
In closing: show earthdiver some damn hospitality and let them in. They're excellent guests, and at 40 minutes, they don't overstay their welcome. More than that, however, this album is just...gratifying. Lord of the Cosmos is everything I hoped it would be after witnessing the jubilant promise of Leave Something Witchy. Indeed, the fact that the one carryover from said EP--the title track itself--feels ever-so-slightly unrefined indicates that they have taken their process and polished up the approach. That said, that essential raw quality that drew me to them in the first place is still exceedingly tangible and damn near tactile. That's a balance that is hard to strike, but by god, they did it. From the sludgy aggression of "Apparatus de Cultus," to the cosmic wanderings of "Wars Drums," to the epic qualities of album sendoffs "God of the Gallows" and "The Crusader," earthdiver have crafted a debut that capitalizes extraordinarily well on their many strengths. If you're looking for some unique doom with which to fuel your 4/20 endeavors--sober or otherwise--this is the album for you. Otherwise, obviously, Lord of the Cosmos comes highly recommended, regardless of date.
earthdiver - Lord of the Cosmos will be released digitally on April 20th. Forbidden Place Records will be facilitating a CD release at some point in the near future, but in the meantime, you can tune into their Facebook at 4:20pm on 4/20 to hear the premiere.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!