Timeliness, amiright? Timeliness is the name of the game in this terrordome of convenience and bragging rights. I realize Hell on Earth was released, in blogging years, what seems like forever ago. But I could not let another day go by without attempting to articulate how I feel about this record.
First, let's talk about the non-musical aspects to this record that make it a near perfect ambient-drone album without even having to put it on a turntable. The sculpted white marble caught in stark black and white. Cropped just below the waist and visible only in the lower third of the album cover. No title, no text, no nothing. The LP itself, a glowing slab of pure white vinyl with a close-up of a sculpted hand grasping some kind of...Book of Testaments from a jealous God? A judgement proscribed in stone? The uncomfortable closeness does not give up anything too easily.
Second, the title. Hell on Earth. Juxtaposition of what is contained on record (which is actually quite heavenly)? Whatever. This is exit music for some sort of post-rapture scenario where we sinners catch the last glimpse of the marble white robes of the saved floating listlessly up to heaven hovering slightly above a cleansing, purifying wall of fire that consumes the rest of us.
These two non-musical features, in some solipsistic way, inform the musical content. The uncomfortable closeness of sounds muted and disconnected from their source. Guitar tones stretched, slowed and pulled beyond anything recognizable. The blurring between organic and mechanical. The marble white of the statue, cropped just enough to obscure the rest of the image. Matthew Sullivan sustains notes and tones just enough to make them sound at once totally alien and completely pedestrian. For all we know this could be the quiet hum of a Chinese Bullet Train seconds before disaster stretched infinitely by some sort of benevolent hand catching and cradling it before it falls. How that imagery works in real life, I have no idea.
Sculpted white marble almost seems too on the nose. Sculpted white noise. Cropped and positioned just outside of our ability to recognize it. Duh.
Hell on Earth. Literally the act of bringing/dragging the supernatural (or supranatural) to earth. Filtering transcendent star-songs/universe vibrations through tons of reverb and grip of pedals littering a darkened apartment bedroom or dingy basement. This is the connection that church folk call a spiritual experience. This is the connection that non-church folk call a spiritual experience.
This is probably the best record of the year.