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A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra-Capsular Extraction gathers all of the music drone metal progenitors Earth recorded in October 1990, during their earliest sessions at Portland's Smegma Studios. Earth, featuring soon-to-be Melvin Joe Preston in its second lineup, intended for those seven tracks to serve as its debut. Record label decisions interfered. Three of those tracks were released a year later via Sub Pop, on the out-of-print EP Extra-Capsular Extraction; four more were released a decade later via No Quarter, as an addendum to the also out-of-print reissue of the live disc Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars. Aside from message board bootlegs, this new Southern Lord collection marks the debut of this material as an uninterrupted whole, as it was originally intended. Not limited to riffs stretched like steel over minimal, militant percussion, A Bureaucratic Desire-- Earth's first EP plus two grueling mid-tempo blasts, a quasi-ballad featuring Kurt Cobain, and an oppressive closer-- now showcases the breadth of Dylan Carlson's vision from the start. Doubtlessly, 1993's Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version will forever remain a sea change moment for both Earth as a band and heavy metal as a form. Over three colossal tracks, Carlson and Dave Harwell treated riff and tone like mutual life forces, using one to explore the other. Earth 2 is an unapologetic, overpowering statement. Even almost 20 years later, even after inspiring legions of better-selling followers and spawning the bulk of a genre, that album still feels utterly vibrant and odd. Without booming drums, lacerated vocals, or dark-side imagery, opener "Seven Angels" is as suffocating as the best black metal, as moving as Carlson's idols in Black Sabbath. But A Bureaucratic Desire persuasively argues for a reconsideration of what Earth accomplished-- or, more specifically, just how early: It took Justin Broadrick's Godflesh the better part of another decade to make industrial metal with a drum machine that's as compelling as "Geometry of Murder" and "German Dental Work". Though loud and lumbering, both tracks maneuver with finesse and agility, two basses and a guitar sliding through the big beats. Especially at the start, "Divine and Bright" displays an undercurrent of prettiness and radiance. Earth would touch upon the idea again with 1995's Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions and finally explore fully a decade later when Carlson reformed the band as an elegant tortoise-like vehicle for slow blues. Even as Kurt Cobain hums and Kelly Canary howls above the mid-tempo riff, there's a certain redemption to the music, as if this all this doom eventually lifts like a fog. That feeling won't last too long, though: Closer "Dissolution 1" is a sluggish, grim march that grinds through one riff over and over again, the drum machine beating against the changes like a whip. It's quintessential nihilistic doom metal-- no hope except an end. Those wary of investing again in music they already own should pay special attention to the credits here. Mell Dettmer remastered these tapes, which got little such attention the first time they were released. Dettmer has worked not only on recent Southern Lord albums by Sunn O))) and Wolves in the Throne Room, but also on music by Sleep, Zoroaster, and Eyvind Kang. Her mastering job here is warm, loud and careful, adding a glow to the massive tidal sweeps of "Ouroboros Is Broken" and emphasizing the drone that hums beneath the whole thing (something also emphasized by the reformed Earth in 2006, thanks to Steve Moore's organ work on Hibernaculum.) "A Bureaucratic Desire for Revenge, Parts 1 and 2" clamp down harder, too, the percussion pushing through the guitars with more gusto, every edge of every riff feeling more like a new rupture. If it's been years since you've listened to these songs, as it had been for me when this reissue arrived, you might believe you're hearing them for the first time. And if you've never heard Earth this early, get ready to change your conceptions: The fountainheads of drone metal have been surprisingly versatile from the start. — Grayson Currin, November 3, 2010 // 8.0 on Pitchfork