By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Dedicated to resurrecting the art of the psychedelic hard-rock power trio, Earthless deliver a bracing collision of expansive sounds and sternum-rattling thunder with their instrumental attack. Formed 15 years ago in San Diego by Mario Rubalcaba (Off!, Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Black Heart Procession), bassist Mike Eginton (Electric Nazarene) and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (Nebula, Howlin’ Rain, Golden Void), the group takes an open-ended improvisational approach to hard rock that alternately recalls the jam-heavy exploration of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, modern Japanese psych purveyors like Acid Mothers Temple and more obscure ’70s riff alchemists like Dust and the Groundhogs.
The group released its impressive debut Sonic Prayer on Gravity in 2005 and two years later followed up that effort with Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, an album that has left critics and fans alike frothing with enthusiasm. Locking into epic grooves stretching to 20 minutes and even longer without losing their dynamic upward trajectory, the band’s transcendent live performances have earned Earthless a reputation as one of the best heavy music acts performing today.
The trio took some time off after the release of Live at Roadburn (a ripping two-disc document of the trio’s blistering 2008 performances at the famed Dutch festival of the same name), though they did contribute its first original song featuring vocals with Mitchell singing entitled “Demon Lady” to a split 2011 EP with like-minded bands Danava and Lecherous Gaze for the Kemado label.
The break allowed members to focus their energies on a variety of projects. Mitchell relocated to the Bay Area where he founded his popular band Golden Void, while Rubalcaba played with both a reunited Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt in addition to putting out several albums and touring with former Black Flag/Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris in hardcore revival band Off!
The band reconvened in 2012 to tour and release it’s most recent studio effort, From the Ages the following year. Hailed by many as the band’s best yet, the double album featured three sprawling epics. The title tune clocked in at over 30 minutes, while two other songs — the transporting opener “Violence of the Red Sea” and “Uluru Rock” — both stretched to 14 minutes of face-melting intensity.
The band has toured regularly since that album, but has only issued a couple of new tunes in the interim, releasing the savage track “End to End” for free download last year. Only their third song to feature Mitchell’s vocals, the tune shows the band is just as adroit at crafting hooky concise rock burners as it is extended improvisations. Earthless also put out a split 12″ with Tee Pee Records labelmates Harsh Toke that featured the opiated Meters-meets-Eddie Hazel groove of “Acid Crusher.”
But the long wait for a new Earthless full length finally seems to be approaching. In August, the band announced that it signed to Nuclear Blast and would release it’s first new album in five years early 2018 that was recorded this past summer at the famed Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree with noted guitar hero Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age, earthlings?) producing the sessions.
Hopefully the band previews some of that new material when it returns to San Francisco this Thursday, headlining at the Chapel in the Mission District. Young San Francisco trio Chief offer up their style of heavy ’70s blues rock that draws on classic influences like the Allman Brothers and the original Jeff Beck Group.
Earthless with Chief
Thursday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. $20-$22