An answer as to how to properly attribute this album doesn’t exist. File it under Earthless or Heavy Blanket. Or neither. Regardless, In a Dutch Haze offers exactly what listeners would expect from such a collective: shredding.
The album comprises Earthless’ rhythm section—Mario Rubalcaba and Mike Eginton on drums and bass, respectively—as well as Heavy Blanket’s J. Mascis (OK, Dinosaur Jr.) and Graham Clise on guitar. Simply enough, though, Earthless is downer stoner rock. And Heavy Blanket, as its name suggests, is plain heavy.
With a set-up like the one here, listeners should know that at some point, In a Dutch Haze is going to turn into a reasonable facsimile of 1970s hard rock with its requisite riffing. How the quartet arrives at its peak, though, is the draw. And it only takes about 10 minutes to figure out what path the single, hour-long track, “Paradise in a Purple Sky,” has set out upon.
Both Earthless and Mascis have a well-defined schtick this deep into their respective careers, the latter’s being a bit less bounded by genre. But after an unexpectedly sedate and spacey opening on this particular trek, the album’s lone composition takes on the sort of mid-tempo, hard rock strut one would imagine before shooting off into a pacing just short of punky.
A bit of the double-bass pedal crops up about one-quarter through the marathon, but that dollop of cheeseball excess (well, the whole thing is excess) fits well enough and doesn’t distract from the incessant, serpentine guitar soloing. The metal gods have been sated.
Defying expectations couldn’t have been what In a Dutch Haze was intended to do. But sometimes, it’s an expected thing that we all crave. And gratifying any desire—here with some smoke-besotted rock improvisations—can be done simply. Earthless, Mascis and Clise don’t offer surprises. And they don’t need to.