Even Hell Has Its Heroes (2023)

Mar 19, 2024

The 110 minute film, directed by Clyde Peterson, opens with a slow-moving pan taking in some lush Northwest scenery that eventually lands on a small church. Two people walk across a parking lot and enter the tiny roadside temple. Shot on Super 8mm, it’s a pleasantly ominous opening. It feels subversive, but the kind of subversive you’d like to be a part of. It’s as if you’re about to get a look into the lives of a cult. But, you know, a fun cult.

What the film is documenting is a modern incarnation of the band Earth. A voiceover from Earth’s primary creator Dylan Carlson enters while we watch them play with some initial background on the band. There were some early versions of the group with different lineups and under different names. And then Earth was created in Olympia, Wash., officially in 1989, and the indie label Sub Pop “saw that it was good.” The band’s unique brand of distinctly slow metal is captured on Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, the band’s first album. It spawned an eclectic scene of experimental metal enthusiasts and gearheads who enjoy exploiting the potential of a heavy chord to the nth degree.

As the documentary moves forward, we hear from the primary players behind the instruments and in the lives of Earth, most often spoken over terrific footage of Seattle and Olympia and occasional shots of Earth performing. The interviews are organized in a linear fashion so you get the story from the ground up without speculation from unnecessary talking heads gumming up the story with excessive band worship. Those interviewed in the film scored their own segments: the dark, often drop-chord-driven soundtrack over the raw 8mm film gives the story a vibrant energy. It provides insight into what the primaries are doing musically nowadays rather than ticking the boxes from a discography you could look up yourself. All this makes for an unusual and interesting documentary about a band that not only needs to be chronicled, but couldn’t have been served as well using typical “worship bio” techniques. The whole thing comes together like a fever dream sequence from a Gus Van Sant movie. And that’s the way the story should be told. –Billups Allen (Do It for the Girls Productions)

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