Members of Earthless against a wooden mural
Credit: Marta

Earthless started releasing anachronistic 40-minute jams steeped in 70s hard-rock riffing at a time in the early 2000s when spindly postpunk seemed to dominate the underground rock landscape. A new wave of psychedelic metal was also beginning to take shape, though, and the Southern California trio’s studio debut, 2005’s Sonic Prayer, opens with a track whose title references Japanese experimental psych act Flower Travellin’ Band (even though the music sticks mainly to stoner-rock tropes). Isaiah Mitchell’s guitar leads have featured prominently from the start, constituting this mostly instrumental group’s raison d’être across almost half a dozen studio efforts, scattered live recordings, and collaborations with psych-rock peers such as San Diego’s Harsh Toke and J. Mascis project Heavy Blanket.

Earthless’s latest album, Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, is a reaffirmation of values following 2018’s Black Heaven, where they exerted their songwriting acumen and came up with a six-tune album centered on lyrics (according to press materials for Night Parade, the band did not enjoy the process too much). While Night Parade consists of two instrumental tunes—the extended two-part title track and a 20-minute closer—it also foregrounds a melodic sense drawn more from the metal world than from 70s rock. The title track starts with lambent noodling, takes a hard turn into a melodic plunge from Mitchell and a thudding breakdown from bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, then concludes with a triumphant major-chord theme that segues into a spacey jam that lasts about as long as all the other parts combined. The influence of Black Sabbath pervades each lurch and metallic gesture the band makes here, and the end of “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons (Part 2)” is basically Tony Iommi worship. It’s long been a cliche for a stoner band to idolize Sabbath, but those dusty icons apparently still inspire engaging (if not revelatory) shredding from Earthless.

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Earthless’s Night Parade of One Hundred Demons is available via their website after 1/28.