It’s hard to view Earth’s seventh full-length, Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II, as an entity of its own. As the title states, the disc is the sequel to last year’s Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I, and it was recorded at the same time with the same drums-cello-guitar-bass configuration. It is, however, easy to compare II to I—and in that contest, the new album falls a little short. Leader Dylan Carlson has been doing incredibly interesting things with Earth’s slow, seismic drones over the past few years, mostly by letting erosion take its toll on his formerly monolithic sound. But where I is an elegant, wind-scoured skeleton, II feels picked clean by the buzzards.
That brittleness is also part of its strength. Across its five instrumental tracks, II allows its delicate interplay of Western twang and minimalist chamber-folk to evoke the most lonesome internal tension. “A Multiplicity Of Doors” is the album’s centerpiece and high point; stalked by Adrienne Davies’ loping drums and haunted by cellist Lori Goldston’s taut, jazzy semi-improvisation, not a moment of the song’s 13 minutes feels superfluous. Opener “Sigil Of Brass” barely registers, though, nor does the 11-minute closer “The Rakehell,” neither of which are able to rope their tentative, sketchy looseness into something suitably mythic and gripping.
Still, the differences between II and I are relatively slight, and that might be more the result of negligent track selection than anything else. Certainly, tracks such as “A Multiplicity Of Doors” and the modal, meandering “The Corascene Dog”—in which Carlson and Goldston spiral guitar and cello to harrowing, harmonic effect—would have fit seamlessly onto the more potent and focused I. At its best, Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II shimmers and mesmerizes like a mirage; but like a mirage, it also quenches less than it should.