Last time we checked in with Earthship, the Berlin based quarter was furiously producing some of the heaviest stoner music around. However, we had cited a distinct lopsided feeling to their Withered, the momentum on the album having taken too long to build. Now, the masters of aggression have returned and seek to perfect their craft. Hollowed is their 2016 release, with a name which clearly echoes their last release. This is a clever move by the band; naturally, we will approach the album with an expectation from them to exceed what came before, wholly attentive and engaged with the album. This clearly formulates our main question for this review: have Earthship managed to transcend what held them back previously and create an album that’s not only good (as the last one was) but something more, something with a hint of excellence?
The answer, happily, is yes. Hollowed is much more than just an iteration of everything that Withered was. This is one of the rare cases in which a band pulling back is a good thing. Hollowed is much more restrained, less fully brought up to eleven on every single moment as Withered was. This allows it to do some interesting things with the core sound for which Earthship are known. There’s still plenty of fury on this album, don’t get me wrong. You can tune in to “Red Leaves” to get a feeling for the color of that aggression. You’ll notice that the bass and drums are much less dominant this time around, leaving more room for the guitar tracks to engage with one another. The whole thing exudes a more classically stoner vibe, harking back more to Black Sabbath and Sahg than the crushing sensibilities of The Ocean or its heavier compatriots.
Which is not to say, again, that the heavy isn’t there: around the one minute and forty five second mark, deep, deep growls are introduced into the fray. These operate not beneath or behind the music exactly, but are definitely regulated into a more supportive role than before. In short, “Red Leaves”, like the rest of the album, a varied and dynamic blend between a new, more laid-back sound and the crushing, upfront, heavy as all hell sounds of Withered. However, to truly understand everything that Hollowed has to offer, you need to keep listening to one more track. Closer “The Edge of Time” is perhaps one of the best tracks on the record. It opens with a monolithic riff and drawling vocals that seem to gather the hints of influence from “Red Leaves” and scatter them into the wind, fulfilling their true, smoke-filled potential.
Here to, the growls operate as a scaffold, a sonic accompaniment that adds harsh color to the tapestry. In addition, where former Earthship albums would have seen the track explode at some point, channeling catharsis through speed combined with fuzz, this track just takes the feedback deeper and deeper. It seems as if Earthship have found a new center for their anger and power. Now, they dig deep into bottomless pits and find that they reverberate with endless screeches, feedback and oppressiveness. Coming back from those depths, they play back for us these sonorous, abyssal songs and run them through their own throats and vocal boxes. There, they are tinged with familiar shades, hues which remind us of previous Earthship releases but are also pleasingly better, more cohesive and more direct. If you’re looking for how Earthship used to sound, you’ll find it here (check out “Valley of Thornes” below for example) but covered in a fresh new coat of rust, smoke and honey.
Earthships’s Hollowed gets…