Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons

Fifth studio album from veteran metallers Earthless is a testament to the chemistry between the group's players, finds Alex Deller

Bit funny when you think about it, that a band on a major metal label whose career spans nearly twenty years and a bewildering array of live releases and splits only has five ‘proper’ albums to their name. Earthless, though, are a band destined to exist more fully in the here-and-now of a live performance, where, freed from the confines of a vinyl record’s grooves, their improv-heavy blend of psych, krautrock, and heavy metal can be given free reign to sprawl, fragment, and reconfigure.

That’s not to say, however, that these comparatively rare, studio-tethered moments are a lesser experience for the rest of us – far from it. Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons, for instance, is truly exhilarating: a booming slab of addle-headed rock that speaks to a lifetime love of Led Zeppelin and The Groundhogs, as well as the reputed capacity to jam on an epochs-long iteration of ‘Iron Man’ without losing focus.

Back to the endless instrumental wig-outs of yore after the experimental mayhem of 2018’s Black Heaven (where, y’know, they wrote eight-minute songs and had vocals – like they were Ram Jam or something), Night Parade… draws inspiration from a slice of Japanese mythology in which trolls, demons, and other such apparitions run rampant through fear-soaked villages. Thematically this is perfect heavy metal fodder, and it’s to the band’s credit that, despite clearly having a right old time of it, they never slip into corniness or cliche – even when a spooky, Slayer-gone-Flower-Travellin’-Band riff conjures rather on-the-nose visions of capering skeletoids.

The album’s forty-minute title track is carved into two halves for practicality’s sake and closer ‘Death To The Red Sun’ weighs in at a ‘lean’ twenty minutes. From mellow, Carlton Melton-esque bubblings to huge, galumphing basslines and riffs fit for godhood it’s all here, along with inevitable whinneying wig-outs that somehow alarm rather than annoy, the maddening, rats-in-the-walls scrabbling and ominous, groaning emanations perfectly conjuring a sense of supernatural dread. Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell is on electric form throughout, wailing away as if his life depended on it and somehow making kinda cool the cocksure, freewheeling approach of a guy who lives his days with his wah-wah hanging half open.

Even when things threaten to get out of hand (at one point we receive disconcerting glimpses into what Can playing ‘The Beautiful People’ might sound like…) the band are locked in so tightly that they’re able to deftly pull themselves back from the brink of disaster. It’s this strong psychic link between virtuoso players that raises the band’s game so far beyond legions of jam-band onanists and stock stoner dullards; a seeming telepathy suggestive of some sort of leap in human evolution, particularly when you consider members have served with acts as disparate as art-screamo tykes Clikatat Ikatowi and The Black Crowes. Whether this has been achieved by luck, talent, complementary brain chemistry or simple graft, though, it damn well works. Because this, as with just about everything preceding it, effortlessly delivers a bout of wild, orgic, hard rock thunder that satisfies at a primal, immediate level while whetting appetites for whatever iteration of it we may, one day, be able to witness live.

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