Earthless - Live at Roadburn [Teep Pee - 2008]Earthless are a jam band of sorts, who borrow heavily from heavy Japanese Psych along the lines of the Flower Travellin' Band (with no vocals), mixed with the heavier side of Krautrock. Add Hawkwind into the mix in relation to the band's "cosmic" side, and you're partway there. The band has the lineup of a standard power trio. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba previously did time as the drummer for Hot Snakes, The Black Heart Procession, Rocket From the Crypt (under the alias of Ruby Mars) and Clikatat Ikatowi. As if that's not enough, he was also a member of skateboard pioneer Tony Alva's pro-team. Bassist Mike Eginton and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell make up the rest of the band.
Live at the Roadburn consists of four long tracks, two per CD (unless you have the double lp version), with no track separations. Just as the Japanese Psych rock band who provide their influences did, Earthless harness the heavy blues of Black Sabbath, and skew it a bit. Truth be told, these recordings aren't as "out there" as one might expect. You wouldn't say they play it straight necessarily but they don't veer off into uncharted territory.
This music could be considered many things; progressive rock because of the profusion of complex riffs; Metal of all stripes because of the bass laden Sabbath style riffs and the quick lead runs; and of course improv because it's evident that there's a lot of room within these pieces for the band to explore. Earthless are loaded with energy, though it takes the first ten or so minutes for the band to get it fully into gear. And when they get going, there's very little letup. The riffs, and there are many, are each given time to develop. They are embellished with a profusion of guitar soloing. Of course, for this type of music, that's to be expected, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell is inventive enough to keep things interesting. The rhythm section do more than just hold things together - Mike Eginton's bass snakes around Mitchell's guitar, and Rubalcaba does a great job of keeping order, all while pummelling his drum kit into submission.
If all of that sounds great, it's worth noting that it all comes with a little caveat. For all of his talent, Mitchell's soloing doesn't deviate too far from the standard blues rock format to bring anything new to the table. He's competent and energetic, but after disc one you might be ready to take a break after an hour of non-stop noodling. Taken together, two discs over an hour and half is a bit much. The good news is, disc two, which is around 35 minutes is where the band really heats up. It safe to say that those with the inclination for long duration, heavy prog or psych will eat this up. Casual listeners might have to consume it in smaller doses. Erwin Michelfelder