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Full Upon Her Burning Lips Tom Coles , May 24th, 2019 09:16

Full Upon Her Moving Lips may be Earth's busiest album to date, but it is also one of their loveliest, finds Tom Coles

Since Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, Earth's output has been a little less predictable, adopting a heavy metal edge to previous outing Primitive and Deadly. Here, that's abandoned in favour of a rich warmth, embracing a vintage, full-bodied sound. Perhaps the most present-sounding of all their mixes, the guitars have a lovely mid-range thrum and the drums shine especially roomy and deep.

Full Upon Her Burning Lips is unique among the Earth canon for being suggestive and sensual. From the song titles to the full production, Earth remain ponderous but with a regal arrogance rather than steeped in funeral fug. ‘Dartura's Crimson Veils’, ‘She Rides an Air of Malevolence’, ‘Maiden's Catafalque’ – rarely have Earth evoked these images, colours and themes, bringing a new perspective to their traditional mass-and-volume approach.

The clarity of vision is bolstered by removing some of the extra instruments, leaving more space for guitar swoops and trills, percussive flutters and instrumental interplay. Repeat listens uncover gems like the intro to ‘Maiden's Catafalque’ which trips over itself in its eagerness to stretch out the winding riff, the sustained slow-burn melody of ‘A Wretched Country of Dusk’ and the creeping malevolence of ‘The Colour of Poison’.

There's rarely been anything in their catalogue which has tried quite so many cool things, which threatens their commendable attitude towards maintaining minimalism. Fortunately, by stripping away the other instruments, more breathing room is allowed between the guitars and the drums. It's their busiest record to date, but still revolves around the thunderous plod that does so well to define their sound.

Importantly, for a band who did so well to combine heavy metal thunder with academic minimalism, who would have thought they could produce something so lovely? Every note sounds thoroughly gorgeous, notable when everything they've released since Bees Made Honey has been wintery, foreboding or encased in hard steel.

For a band whose titling and artwork is so important for the images they conjure, reverting to a tighter focus works for them. Carlson's guitars, clearly the focus, get to step back from the angular and the lugubrious. Instead, red-lipped riffs flutter over careful and precise percussion, evoking crimson dresses striding down gold corridors. And underneath it all – the star player – Adrienne Davis’s steady, world-eating thud has never sounded better.