Booze and Frank Frazetta
After stepping out the factory doors, clothes and hair covered in sweat, oil, blood and grease, you roll up your last manager’s special pack of Bugler and hop in your half running ’78 AMC Concord. You gun it through the backwoods because you don’t want the local sheriff catching you with that spliff in your glovebox, when that three-on-the-tree gearbox hurls you into an alternate dimension populated by forest imps waiting to tear your flesh from bone. In other words, you’re listening to EARTHLING. The Richmond, Virginia based outfit is finally releasing their debut LP after a split with Valkyrie and a few EP’s. Dark Path, a brooding Holocaustic hail-wind of slop and trudge, is one hell of a way for EARTHLING to mark their place in the contemporary metal community.
The first few notes ring out like a drunk Death cover band, as if a resurrected Chuck Schuldiner forgot how to play guitar. But then this axe-adorned kobold exclaims, “YOU’RE ON A DARK – FUCKING – PATH,” and you’re like, “GODDAMN IT, I NEED A BEER RIGHT NOW.” Are you kidding? That’s such a brutally silly way to open an album that it’s positively splendid. It carries on with some early ’80s thrash nonsense, snare abuse, and squelching Jäger-induced git-fiddling. So far, it’s clear that the biggest inspirations to EARTHLING are booze and Frank Frazetta. “Resent” opens in a similar fashion, only with even more disgruntled weed solos and corpse-paint harmonies. The recklessness and unabashed folkloric feel hit the metal spot if you’re into Warhammer 40k.
You might, at this point in the album, be concerned with monotony ahead. However, with “Losing Sight,” it’s not just another blast of Norwegian thrash sludge, but halfway through it kicks into multiple gears-–From early English grind, Sabbathian power slashing and trilling, to pure unadulterated Palm Desert stoner jamming. Alright, now we’re fucking talking. Imagine a four-piece gang of stoned war-goblins against a battalion of imperial battle-elves and you got the first half of Dark Path. Not bad. “Soldier of the Fortunate” picks up with the same wasted local Motörhead cover band riffage only with a bit more syrup in the solos and a scoche more gloom in tone.
Perhaps the most Slayer-idian of the lot, “Wilderness Throne” is six and a half minutes of Hell Awaits-esque back and forth speed then sludge–speed then sludge–speed then sludge…Again, not bad. However, it stalls for a bit until the truly nostalgic “Pass Into Beyond.” The nearly seven minute chuggsterpiece is like bong ripping yourself into a black hole where the other side is the embodiment of Mob Rules era Sabbath with the addition of some major Mega Man shred duals. So, yeah…what else can be said? Dark Path kinda kicks ass. It has everything a doom or sludger would want, and does it with an exciting sense of carelessness. Also, the production is pretty shitty, which is reminiscent of early black metal, so that kind of adds to the Tolkien experience, as well. All in all, Dark Path will satisfy your local bridge troll with enough change leftover for a Steel Reserve or two.