Earth's progress as a band may have been as slow as their material is in the past, but, in recent years, the entity has been putting out one impressive effort after another since their reformation in 2003. The three piece doom/drone outfit, composed of bassist Bill Herzog (Citizens' Utilities, ex-Sunn O))) live member), drummer Adrienne Davies, and founding guitarist Dylon Carlson (Drcarlsonalbion, ex-Asva), present their fifth full-length effort titled Primitive and Deadly, which also stands as the eighth in the band's legacy aside a plethora of miscellaneous releases. This also marks the fifth studio album to be handled by Southern Lord Records. While their previous two-part Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light recordings were met with mixed reception, more favoring than disliking, this new offering has earned a good deal of praise within the doom communities. But does it stand as their most impressive to date, or is all the praise unjust?

In typical Earth fashion, Primitive and Deadly winds up another slow moving slab of uncompromising doom metal, though one that channels more of a southern blues reflection than previous outings have seen up to this point. There's also a smokey haziness that plays up a stoner metal quality which helps make these emotional performances resonate loudly with the listener, all the while giving he or she one hell of a contact high amid the rawer production quality of the effort. While a bit thin due to it, there's still a blunt nature that the loud pulsing bass guitar brings into the mix, working alongside the various distortions and crisp drums throughout the release to weave the necessary atmospheres that gradually drift towards a level of altered reality, or something as simple as a dream. Of course, as the album continues, it's more like a nightmare.

You wouldn't suspect this right from the start, however. "Torn by the Fox of the Crescent Moon" plays up the album's title perfectly by going for that raw primitiveness of early doom metal and NWOBHM material, creating a fairly epic landscape with a burdening sound to the guitars. Of all the tracks, this is the only one to sound like a legitimately analog recording, as if something torn off a cassette or vinyl pressing with little to no remastering done. It's a grim and haunting piece that sticks with you well past the first listen, though stands a bit out of place considering the coming tracks such as "From the Zodiacal Light" which elevates the listener upon the puffs of smoke that the lighter performance and cleaner distortions easily create. It's an odd mixture of stoner rock with traces of progressive rock thrown into the blues fueled performance. Sometimes a subtle occult rock presence can be picked up on, but, for the most part, the music presents more of a laid back haziness, as if having imbibed of a personal vice and riding the sensation that it creates, allowing the world around you to just drift away. The most impressive part is that this feeling remains active with you throughout it's eleven-and-a-half minute time span, never leaving you to sit there feeling like it's going on forever or relying on any sort of filler in order to maintain that state of mind.

But then you have "Rooks Across the Gates", which is a far different beast all together. While it maintains that aforementioned southern blues and rock vibe, there's no denying an astral landscape to the performance as well. The beautiful deeper held notes and subtle post-rock elements scattered about weave a bleak setting, leaving you floating in a sea of depression before what sounds like additional synth effects kick up about six minutes in, ushering a brief space rock vibe that puts the whole track into perspective immediately. You're not one with this world, but rather the outer limits of it, isolated with only your thoughts and reflections to keep you company. This is one that could easily be interpreted differently - as with much of what composes this album, really - but this one in particular is just unnerving regardless of interpretation, being able to even send a chill down your spine at times as you crash head first back to reality entering the slow moving "Badgers Bane" and the nightmarish scenarios the additional droning and ambient elements throw your way, such as around seven minutes in, though it does become a bit tedious in the last few.

Primitive and Deadly is an interesting trip that comes up just shy of a full hour long experience. While "Torn by the Fox and the Crescent Moon" is a fantastic dark slab of traditional doom and heavy metal values, it's the only one that sticks out like a sore thumb. Afterwards, it all feels like a myriad of "Mary Jane" and alcohol influenced performances from the deep south, all of which manage to alter your mood significantly with the greatest of ease save for the closing of "Badgers Bane". Primitive and Deadly does stand as one of the strongest offerings that Earth has managed to put together since reforming, and even shows an additional level of maturity fans of the group will take note of. Hopefully the trio continues to expand on the sound presented here on future releases, as it just feels as though there's still more room to grow and explore this voice in particular.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.