Sunday 3 July 2016

Earth Ship - Hollowed (Album Review)

Release date: June 24th 2016. Label: Napalm Records. Released. Format: CD/DD/Vinyl

Dead Letters – Tracklisting

1.Reduced to Ashes - 04:11
2.Hollowed - 04:26
3.Valley of Thorns - 03:42
4.Conjured - 03:25
5.Monolith - 04:04
6.In Fire's Light - 04:13
7.In the Arms of Medusa - 03:14
8.Castle of Sorrow - 03:46
9.Safeguard of Death - 04:38
10.Red Leaves - 04:26
11.The Edge of Time - 07:09
12.Blood Candy - 03:08
13.The Edge of Time - 04:11

Band Members

Jan Oberg - Guitars, Vocals
Sabine Oberg - Bass
Florian Häuser - Drums
Marcel Schulz - Guitars


The Berlin-based quartet Earth Ship come back with a new stunning album, Hollowed, two years later after Withered, which it seems to be a worthy successor. After three full length (Exit Eden 2011, Iron Chest 2012, Withered 2014) and one EP ( if She Were a Black Bird 2013), the long association with Pelagic Records gives way to Napalm Records.

The band led by Jan Oberg (guitars/vocals and former drummer of The Ocean) was able to fix and consolidate a monolithic sound that, over the years, moves in the everglades of sludge metal, bringing flashes of freshness in it. In Hollowed, Earth Ship are able to explore lands that go beyond the simple definition of sludge metal going, in some ways, in a different direction from the one set in the first albums of the band.

In this new release, the band hits the mark with their lysergic and powerful mixture able to retrieve the sound of stoner-fathers Kylesa and Crowbar, mixed with Deftones and Mastodon, more organically throughout the whole album. A feeling that, in my opinion, is not found in their previous releases, where the different influences do not easily emerge, making the whole thing a little too flat. Mind you, from a technical and instrumental point of view, Earth Ship have a few seconds, with a precise and devastating rhythm section sustaining heavy and powerful riffs and vocals able to switch between a sludgy growl and melodic partitures. What has been missing in the last years, and now shines in this work is, undoubtedly, a bit of freshness compared to the past production, where the songwriting appears to be more mature. As a fan, I knew that sooner or later it would emerge.

Hollowed opens with Reduces To Ashes, a track that goes steady in the use of riffing and drumming while the choruses, which are flanked by the poisonous growl of Jan, contribute to enrich the song. Hollowed, the second track, goes in the same direction, with some passages remind me Gojira. In this release, reverbs and distortions help to make less obvious the sound of Earth Ship, where slow and recursive execution typical of sludge metal fuses with furious assaults performed at high speed, as in the first part of Valley Of Thorns or in Castle Of Sorrow.

The focus in Hollowed is kept alive by the ability of Earth Ship to manage some interesting diversions that show the vast pool of several different influences, which are not only near to the old Sabbath’ school as in Conjured, but also close to the more modern metal traits of Mastodon and The Ocean, as in Valley of Thorns and Monolith. Such influences, once again, move the compass of sludge to less boring and repetitive sounds. The impression one gets from listening is that Hollowed is not just an iteration of everything that Withered was, but a starting point for a varied and dynamic blend of a new and more laid-back sound of the band. 

Hollowed ends with, to my opinion, the most beautiful and evocative track of the album, The Edge of Time, an epic, slow and monolithic song that, in some passages, sounds like the perfect fusion between the sludge/post metal of Neurosis and the dark beauty doom of Windhand. A perfect song you would listen endlessly and that makes you regret the end of the album.

It is not easy to add originality in an genre that is recursive by definition, based on elephantine heavy riffs and monolithic walls of sound. In Hollowed, Earth Ship manage to cross the borders of sludge, adding just enough to freshen every single track than past releases. While not a revolution, Hollowed could represent a new point of view for the Berlin based band. Do not dwell in a first partial listening. Hollowed needs more of a listen. Let yourself be carried slowly from the tracklist, listen intently every single note and soon you will understand why, probably, we are facing the best album of Earth Ship.

Words by Bruno Bellisario

Thanks to Napalm Records for the promo. Hollowed is a available to buy now on CD/DD/VInyl from Napalm Records.