WASHINGTON, DC: Earth performing at Rock & Roll Hotel, Friday, November 9, 2012. ? Brandon Wu / for the Washington City Paper.

Earth‘s music, which at this point in their career is less like the drone metal of the band’s early years and closer to a kind of darkly oppressive Americana, might not strike the average listener as particularly exciting concert material. But, surprisingly, it is—-mostly because the band appears to be in a trance as it plays.

Friday night at the Rock & Roll Hotel, bandleader and sole original member Dylan Carlson‘s eyes constantly rolled up into the back of his head. Drummer Adrienne Davies was also transfixing to watch: In order to keep accurate time at the band’s extraordinarily slow tempos, she moved her entire body to some internal clock, her arms moving in huge, sweeping strokes.

And, of course, like any good metal show, sheer volume makes the music that much more powerful. Earth had that in common with opening band Eagle Twin—-but that was their only similarity. The guitar/drums duo played for an hour, massive riff after massive riff, broken only by occasional forays into screeching noise. As far as tests of endurance go, their set was pretty enjoyable.

Another duo, Stebmo, opened up the evening. Consisting of Earth members Steve Moore and Don McGreevy, they sounded exactly like what one might expect from two Earth members playing jazz. On the Stebmo studio recording—-dense but upbeat modern jazz—-Moore is joined by a number of jazz luminaries like Todd Sickafoose and Eyvind Kang. Replacing these folks with Earth’s bassist in the live setting makes the music slower, heavier, more portentous—-yet somehow not lacking a certain swing. Earth may have been the highlight of the evening, but Stebmo was perhaps the most surprising and interesting of the three acts.

For some photos of all three bands, check out the slideshow.