Earthless - Black Heaven - (8.5/10)
Published on March 30, 2018
The Californian sun is an illustrious seductress – warming up the Pacific waters its air bathes the Golden State in an enticing richness, washing over her inhabitants with a sultry lusciousness hard to find elsewhere in the world. It has attracted many to the end of the Western world; some lose themselves within her forbidden temptations, others are driven mad by the dizzying heat which radiates from her celestial body. Many have tried to replicate these treasures and few succeed. That is not to say it is an impossible accomplishment, for the trio of musicians who make up Earthless, the kings of lysergic freak-out psych jamming, have upped the ante on the ever-present star in the Californian sky with their latest effort Black Heaven, shaking things up not only in the natural world but amongst themselves and all who follow them.
Their fourth album, Black Heaven marks a huge paradigm shift for the trio of Isaiah Mitchell, Mike Eginton, and Mario Rubalcaba: with Mitchell providing most of the material here the album is their first full-length to feature any vocals. This presence is so strong that two-thirds of the album is written around actual strong structures as opposed to epic, drawn-out psychedelia. Yet though they lean heavily towards elements of Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, and even Winterhawk, this is not to say Earthless have dramatically changed their sound; if anything, it plunges the listener deeper into their organic utopia, adding many more layers on their solid musical foundation. These are welcome additions – Mitchell’s vocals are alluring and full of soul, perfectly complementing the newfound coastal warmth in their sound. When I say warmth, the listener is drenched in it, engulfed by it. It cannot be helped to be taken away with each wave of sonic bliss the trio unleash; for one moment they pour you into a tumbler of bluesy Cream-esque riffs, the next they supernova with monumental bursts of sumptuous heavy psych, the kind found on their scorching predecessor From the Ages…these are moments of pure breathlessness.
Even during the vocal performances, Earthless do very well not to restrain themselves so as to lose sight of their own identity, as all this does is provide the trio with a road to guide themselves down. On these roads they channel everything into taking the listener on their same journey of self-discovery; from the Hendrix licks which dominate the Blue Cheer musings on ‘Gifted by the Wind’ – which proves Mitchell has the mettle to translate the band’s sound into something catchy with memorable vocal hooks – straight through to the mellow nature of the soaring ‘Sudden End’ closing the album, Black Heaven plays with these older stylings with the flare of any classic Earthless album. ‘End to End’ is chock full of rumbling grooves before jettisoning off into the distant cosmos, and standout epic ‘Electric Flame’ moulds the two together in a climactic face-melting finale as infectious as it is bombastic. Then of course there is the quintessential, jam-like titular track, a classic example of how these three turn the surfaces of planets into a magmatic sea of swirling licks, with the added Sabbathian textures which embrace every fibre of the album, as colossal and as monumental as anyone could ask for.
This is what makes Black Heaven such an awe-inspiring listen: their ability to seamlessly ground themselves on Planet Earth and blend their sound with something truly, well, down-to-earth. That they have chosen the Californian coast as their destination adds so much warmth and character to their already hallucinogenic modus operandi and it works better than anticipated. Fears of the band turning into Golden Void MK II, Mitchell’s other project, are now laughed at in hindsight but, as with any sort of experimentation, some may turn their heads skyward and hope for more of the same. If this is to be the case, then they are truly missing out on some heavenly vibes found only at the edge of the world…