Well, well, and, for good measure, well. This is a lovely little surprise. This unassuming debut album from progressive outfit Earthlimb is one of those records that creeps up on you and gets under your skin without you noticing but stays there like a fresh tattoo.
Earthlimb are a trio of multi-talented musicians headed by Patrick Hagmann, who serious death metal fans will recall used to play guitar in the German melodic death metal outfit Fear My Thoughts until their breakup in 2010. Hagmann has joined forces with former FMT drummer Norman Lomhad (who also pummelled the skins for Triptykon) and Alex Bleiziffer to create this new project. Although ostensibly a three piece, you do get the sense that this is Hagmann’s project (albeit with sterling support) as he plays all the other instruments on the album and it’s pretty much his artistic vision on display here. And it’s about as far away from death metal as you could imagine.
With influences as varied as Pink Floyd (there’s even a flying pig on the album’s artwork for heaven’s sake), Mogwai, Radiohead, and Porcupine Tree, this is one of those records that you put on just to see what it’s like with little or no expectation and then find yourself, some forty or so minutes later going “well, that was dead good” and putting it on again. Well, I did anyway.
“Origin” is a quiet and unassuming opening track; its calm melodies warmly invite the listener in; it’s like being led into the sea for your first swimming lesson or surf ride. It guides us nicely to “Hiding”, a seven minute track that veers from sublime, relaxed melody to pained anguished guitar part- it’s a really interesting and beguiling track, packed with ideas and atmosphere: just like the rest of this album.
“Pulsar” sounds like it could have been an outake from Radiohead‘s “Kid A” album, albeit one where the guitar was front and centre and not hidden away like some maltreated child. “Pulsar” has a really- ahem- pulsing undercurrent- it sounds at times like it should be part of a soundtrack to a European arthouse movie- one with a big car chase though. “Oceans of Astate” is what I imagine would have happened if Steven Wilson had decided to join Mogwai and is, for me, the album highlight. It’s a little bit of an epic, if truth be told, with great melodies and creative ideas tossed around like confetti.
“The Red Tide” is reminiscent, in its opening bars at least, of Genesis or maybe “Hemispheres” period Rush and there is a lovely guitar part that Alex Lifeson wouldn’t cock a snook at, too but its in its completely effortless melody that the song really takes flight. It’s proper prog rock with huge orchestration and atmospherics building a sense of drama and place.
“Virtues” has a very proggy, very spaced out feel to it and, dammit, is that not a trip hop drum part that leads off the becalmed and ambient “Bloom of Light”? I rather think it is. “Waves” brings us crashing back from our zen like trance state in a hurry, marching us to the end of the record in good order and just in time for us to do it all again.
Look, I know that we’re supposed to be all objective and things but I was really bowled over by Earthlimb and this debut album. It’s packed full of ideas, lovely melodies and just seems to get better every time I play it. Dump your prejudices at the door, open your mind and your ears and be prepared to be utterly enthralled. A seriously tasty 9/10.