Earth Drive - Helix Nebula (2020)
Coming about three years after their previous album, Stellar Drone, the Portuguese band of Earth Drive are back with more tracks than any of their other albums. Subtitled “Dust Makes This Cosmic Eye Look Red”, the new album shows Earth Drive continuing to hone their mix of heavy psych and space metal, and the results are downright fantastic, though it takes numerous play-throughs to appreciate just how much they've packed into the experience.
The first of the dozen included on Helix Nebula is the intro-ish “Cosmic Eye”, which matches a jangling guitar riff to deep-throb bass alternations, kicking things right into gear. A fade leads to the title track, in which rolling rhythms shift momentum between the two lead vocalists, on the back of guitar and drum swells. The excitement of the band to be back is evident, and it's hard to not get pulled in by that energy, along with the hooks and power of the song itself.
As things cruise on from there (with the transitory track “Holy Drone” guiding listeners inward), the care that the band has put into giving the album a persistent sense of flow becomes increasingly evident. Careful handling of the songs' energies creates something of an undertow effect; you try to think back to how the music got to a certain point, and you have to keep threading further and further back, as it builds on itself so much throughout the album.
To be clear, Earth Drive most definitely do not sacrifice individual song quality for the shape of the overall album. Song after song rocks and captivates, with nuances and twists helping to distinguish each track, though the underlying character is clearly consistent. Grooves and deep riff explorations are given full due, and the band's knack for going from an introspective moment of quiet to an outburst of liveliness gets put to superb use several times.
A pair of 'bridge' tracks (“Nagarjuna” and “Anulom Vilom”) mark the change-over to what would be Side B on a vinyl release of the album (and can some savvy label license this band's discography to make that happen already?). With the first return to 'full-length' song size, “Science of Pranayama”, ED reassert themselves in what feels like the album's climax, with the meditative “Deep Amazon”, expansive “Space God”, and outro of “Phantalien” following. All together, the new album is outstanding, and shows quite thoroughly how Earth Drive keep building and developing on the ideas of their earlier work. If you're a fan of heavy psych, do not let yourself miss this.
For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Hijo de la Tormenta, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Ksyatriya, Mondo Drag