by Jamila Pomeroy
The San Diego-bred psychedelic heavy-rock trio Earthless pushes boundaries with their latest album Black Heaven, a stray from their typical crushing instrumentals. Black Heaven is rock and roll put in overdrive, holding ground with authority – possibly reflective of their label switch over to Nuclear Blast. Black Heaven ventures into a more vintage sound, while remaining heavy and tough as nails.
While previously being coined as an instrumental band, Black Heaven is a six-track album that features four songs with vocals by Isaiah Mitchell. The band draws much inspiration from German Krautrock and Japanese heavy blues.
“In the beginning it was a flower travelin’ band, and blues creation from Japan, and bands like Guru Guru and Amon Duul (the first and second) from Germany,” says drummer Mario Rubalcaba. “There are so many others that exist as well, but that would take up a lot of space.”
While their musical inspiration may still be the same, Black Heaven comes off as less shred-heavy, and more honed in on mood and vocal tonality. Each song stands on its own as uniquely independent, while past albums embodied a more cohesive flow. The songs may be shorter, but the production value and flow connecting tracks provides new elevation. Transitions between songs like “Black Heaven” and “Sudden End” exude production sophistication we have yet to hear from the band.
With nearly 18 years under their belt, it would be easy to believe the band dynamic has changed along with their sound, but Rubalcaba states the way they create music is quite similar to their early years.
“I don’t think that’s a bad thing either for us. This last LP was more song oriented, but we have always done a couple covers or an original song here and there with vocals, but they were really low key releases. We still rely heavily on improvising through musical situations, and that can apply even to the more structured stuff.”
Earthless, from the beginning, was born from hybridized subgenres, so really, it should come as little surprise for the band to continue their trend of experimentation. While some elitist fans may need to get adjusted to the change of pace, this could be seen as a shift in the right direction for Earthless. Black Heaven gives us the opportunity to peer deeper into the assumed themes of the band’s songs through lyrical expression; they are, in fact, much more than the archetypal stoner/psychedelic band you may have thought they were.
Earthless plays the Rickshaw Theatre on October 10.