Dylan Carlson has walked a harder path than most during his near quarter-century as captain of the good ship Earth. Despite being one of the elder statesmen of the Seattle music scene, his band’s work never garnered the kind of mainstream acceptance or critical acclaim afforded to local contemporaries like Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, and even now Carlson is best known to many as the guy who bought the gun that his close friend Kurt Cobain used to kill himself. Years of drug abuse have taken their toll, and recently the guitarist survived a rare form of hepatitis B that doctors advised was likely a result of past addictions; but these days, cleaned up and sober, Carlson seems to have found a peace of sorts. Since resurrecting the project in 2005 with Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method, Carlson’s muse has shifted towards something more cosmic, the Black Sabbath grooves and metallic feedback drones of old replaced – or, at least, augmented – by a richly melodic, spacious sound informed by country, jazz, English folk rock and African desert blues; in a recent interview, Carlson explained that he now tries “to play less with more feeling; to play fewer notes and make the notes more expressive”, and whilst these pieces are long, glacially-paced and undeniably somber in tone the warm, cyclical bass riffs and luminescent guitar lines are as mesmerising as watching snow fall by streetlight. Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II was recorded with Stuart Hallerman (who also helmed 1993’s groundbreaking Earth 2) during the same fortnight-long session that yielded last year’s first chapter but this worthy companion piece is far from an afterthought: containing five tracks with a total run-time of 45 minutes, the album lacks anything resembling filler material, suggesting that the chemistry between the current line-up – Carlson on guitar with wife Adrienne Davies on drums and percussion, Karl Blau on bass and Lori Goldston on cello – is as productive as it is captivating. Listen to a full album stream over at Pitchfork.
Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II is out February 14 on Southern Lord