It must have been something to be a marginalized Rock musician in Seattle in 1993, right when Grunge's popularity was skyrocketing and Kurt Cobain's suicide had yet to cast a pall over the scene.
Dylan Carlson, guitarist of (mostly) instrumental titans Earth, was once such a person. In '93, his band released its first LP, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, a crushing behemoth of glacial, distant guitar lines. (Songs started at 15 minutes long and only rose from there.) The guy might have been laying the groundwork for the gloomy, obscure hues of Doom, Drone and Sludge Metal practiced by tons of bands nowadays, but not everyone was a fan.
“At the time, MTV were showing up to film anything even vaguely associated with Seattle,” Carlson remembers.
The network taped an Earth performance in front of an unusual crowd. “The audience was this whole row of Metal dudes who were flipping me off.”
Giving the group the finger nowadays would not only be blasphemy against a beloved act but a weak, needless move. Now a band some 20 years old (if not counting the long hiatus between the late '90s and early '00s), Earth create Folk-ish Metal that sounds timeless in its sparseness, as exhibited on the recent Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I. (The sequel comes out next year.)
Still, the venerated Earth 2 is how they built their rep.“No one plans to make a classic or whatever. If anyone says they did, I think they’re lying,” Carlson says. “At the time, in my youthful folly, I was trying to do something extreme. It’s definitely one of those polarizing records. Either people get it and like it or they loathe it. I still kind of feel this way: It’s always better to be loved and hated rather than just tolerated.”
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