Earth and Pillars are a band that burst onto the scene in 2014 (the same year the band came to be) with their excellent debut album ‘Earth I‘. The unknown trio had no demo nor any release for that matter prior to this album, but still garnered them the attention of the legendary Avantgarde Music label and the rest as they say is history. The band have now returned with their sophomore album which is a similar but at the same time different beast altogether. Where the debut was maybe more akin to the glow of autumn, ‘Pillars I’ sees the band more appropriately focus their attention on the harshness of winter.
If like me you were lucky enough to purchase a copy of the beautiful limited A5 edition you will notice that it also includes the ‘Towards the Pillars’ disc which not only complements the original album but concludes the journey and makes the release and package more complete.
‘Pillars I’ is made up of four epic tracks of pure glacial black metal. This style of black metal was the creation of the legendary Wintherr with his band Paysage d’Hiver who I am sure you agree need no introduction, creating music with a primary focus to take the listener through kingdoms of ice and frozen realms while maintaining a sense of isolation and desolation throughout. As you can imagine the tracks are delivered in blizzard like fashion pulling the listener straight into an ice storm, a whirlwind of tremolo riff work delivered in a dark and unsettling manor, as if a warning of uncertainty, to beware and stay back. The tempo can vary from fast to slow and almost stop in places, electric guitars fading to let the ever present ambience of the keys shine through which are often accompanied with a tasteful use of clean guitar melodies. The effect of this is quite mesmerising, giving the listener a sense of hope and ease as if the storm is about to pass, though this does not last long once the guitars fade back in and the attack continues. It adds variety to the tracks while maintaining that trance like and uneasy feeling bands like this thrive on.
I was surprised to hear how clear all the instruments sound in the mix as often in this style things can get buried, only here they have pulled it off without sacrificing any of the atmosphere. Z.’s vocals have a lower delivery in comparison to the shrieks and rasps the style is known for and are quite decipherable especially in the clean and quieter sections. The keys seem to be more prominent on this release which is music to my ears as they really help build the atmosphere and ambience of winter while also present are some wind effects creating a feeling as if one is standing atop of a mountain, far above the trees at the top of the world.
Without reading the lyrics the music, for me created a vision of a journey through snow covered woods and fjords, battling with nature to reach an unknown goal high in the mountains, a journey ‘Towards the Pillars’ of the world maybe and that is where disc 2 comes into full effect. It is made up of 5 ambient tracks simply titled I to V. For me this disc acts like the aftermath of the thousand year storm that came before, gazing from the mountain tops high to the snow covered lands below, everything laid to rest in a desolate and barren wasteland, only a sense of isolation remains and what awaits at the end of this journey to the stars. After reading the lyrics I was not far away with my assumption and can safely say the band channelled their vision very well and with great effect through the music on display. The ambience is beautifully crafted and entrancing. One could compare it to the Paysage d’Hiver classics ‘Die Festung’ and ‘Einsamkeit’ and could sit comfortably in between these two said releases drawing similarities and possibly inspiration from both soundscapes of winter.
The A5 is beautifully packaged and contains a booklet at both ends, front and back, comprising of a fantastic array of pictures all captured by Z. himself. These act as a narrative the music and are a true reflection of each album with the first being a much more cold and harsh affair compared to the brighter nature of the second. Even the physical discs themselves depict an ice like flake, one with a black background the other grey, so you can see no detail has been left out.
Earth and Pillars have created a remarkable effort and a true representation of winter. Nature inspired music like this can be subjective to the weather for the listener to experience its full intention. I can tell you sitting here, surrounded by cold and frost with everything wrapped in fog they have more than achieved their goal of atmosphere and can stand tall with Wintherr in the halls of ice.