Apparently, U.S. listeners have been clamoring for domestic releases of Earthtone 9’s albums. At least, that’s the rationale behind Abstract Sound Recordings’ issuing of the now-defunct London alternative/hardcore band’s Lo-Def(inition) Discord (1998), Off Kilter Enhancement (1999) and Arc’tan’gent (2000) albums. After a few listens, it’s clear to hear how some of the music from these guys might have influenced the U.S. scene. When chameleon singer Karl Middleton doesn’t sound like he’s spewing vomit with each unintelligible lyrical phrase he spits, he sings in a deep stuffed-up voice that at times recalls Chris Cornell or Kurt Cobain, and would’ve fit in well on American radio.
Bizarre song titles ("Vitriolic HSF," "Approx. Purified" and "Star Damage for Beginners," to name just three) and production from Andy Sneap (Nevermore, Cathedral) ensure that the curiosity factor garners Earthtone 9 some posthumous listeners on this side of the pond.
Lo-Def(inition) Discord, the band’s debut, is the least melodic of this bunch, although such tracks as "2:00:00," "3rd Ripple in (Wove)," "Ever You Say" and the U.S.-only bonus track "Orchid Frequency" are decent songs that require more than simply shouting. Much of Off Kilter Enhancement, on the other hand, is laced with dark mid-tempo tracks that sound much more contemporary. The album marries elements of grunge and nu-metal to create an almost ethereal vibe that unfortunately climaxes in the middle of the album, with "O…O…O…," "I Nagual Eye," "Enertia 65800" and "Möe=ra (t-talk)." Middleton can manipulate his voice to fit practically any kind of song, a skill prominently demonstrated on Arc’tan’gent. An amalgam of Earthtone 9’s first two albums, Arc’tan’gent vacillates between melodic shouting and moody singing. A highlight — and a welcome change of pace, quite frankly — comes with the rather funky yet heavy-as-hell "Yellow Fever," sung by Liberty 37’s Ishmael Lewis, who is backed by some nifty distorted harmonies.
Throughout these three albums, the musicians show great depth and an ability to mix up their playing style without losing their way. No same-old, same-old here. Earthtone 9 released three full-length albums and one EP between 1998 and 2000. A final farewell EP, Omega, was issued in April. "We’ve said all we had to say as this band, and everyone is keen to move on to other things," guitarist Owen Packard said after the band’s demise. Too bad.