There's been a bit of two-man trend going on locally, with Class Machine, the Watchers, Hobgoblin, Arcane Lore, and now Lord Earth, who drop their debut full-length, Napalm, Baby!, this week at Geno's. In general, the arrangement doesn't allow for much melody, as the work to fill out the band's sound is substantial and there's a tendency toward cycling riffs and repeating phrases, and Lord Earth's proggy metal doesn't even throw vocals into the mix (nor do the Watchers, actually). The listener is left to ponder building speed-ups, furiously precise drumming, and thunderous chords pretty much on their own merits.
This is somewhat impeded by the home-spun recording effort, as the drums can sound toylike at times and there's not a whole lot of bottom end going on, so the cymbals tend to dominate. Albums like this are usually immaculately recorded if they're successful, since every note is meant to count for so much, like Dream Theater, say, but here things can sometimes be downright ramshackle.
That might be where this album succeeds most, though. Lord Earth are a hell of a lot more playful than most bands of this ilk, and there's something charming about their willingness to throw in a funk bass or a bit of lounge jazz. Titles like "Where is the Mexican Space Program?" and "Jesus vs. the Easter Bunny with Light Sabers on My Front Lawn" underscore how lightly the pair of Kyle Jongerden and Chris Gilman take themselves. Plus, you've got to be impressed by the way they swap roles of guitarist/bassist and drummer without changing their sound substantially.
There's some good, if not amazing, musicianship here. The song constructions can be interesting. I nodded my head early and often. That's a pretty good start.
NAPALM, BABY! | Released by Lord Earth | with Woulds + Shabti | at Geno's, in Portland | March 16 | facebook.com/lordearthme
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