In the wake of many pretenders to Earth's drone-rock throne, leader Dylan Carlson veered left with 2005's Hex (Or Printing In The Infernal Method), a disc of psychotropic twang that gave new meaning to the phrase "happy trails." Last year's Hibernaculum groped forward and back by reworking some old Earth songs in its new style, but The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull is the first full-length of fresh material following Hex's evolutionary leap. That said, Bees is a breakthrough in and of itself: A richer, more emulsified mix of Americana and spacious prog, the album envisions an Old West whose dust is entirely interstellar. To push it even higher, Carlson drafted lauded jazz guitarist Bill Frisell to add viscous, simmering fretwork to three of the disc's tracks—including the opener, "Omens And Portents 1: The Driver," a play of echoes and textures that twist like smoke in the wind. Taken as the abstract, instrumental flipside of Black Mountain's stunning new In The Future, Bees proves that 2008 is already a banner year for dark, heavy, progressive psychedelia.