As I sit here at 4AM drinking caffeine laden coffee, eating bacon and eggs, fantasizing about having a couple gin and tonics over the weekend, and listening to the newest slab of heaviness from Syracuse’s wrecking crew Earth Crisis. I realize I am currently the walking contradiction of all they stand for. As you all are aware, ExC are one of the godfathers of the straight edge hardcore movement. Keep in mind they are also heavy duty (almost militant) vegans and animal rights activists. Even though their ideals might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I, for one, embraced the straight edge culture with abandon. Nights of going to shows armed with a backpack, sporting my Snapcase hoodie and drawing the biggest x’s on my hands were all in the name of showing my purity and my thoughts of living. Nowadays, I don’t have a reason to show my straight edge tendencies because, well, I enjoy steak, bourbon, and a chilled energy drink. This has not stopped me from listening to Earth Crisis’ newest release, “Salvation of Innocents” through Candlelight Records.
When I found out I would be reviewing this release, I was as giddy as a vegan at a Farmer’s Market. I had been a fan since the “All Out War” EP was released in 1993. What really hooked me into the band was the visceral and venomous EP, “Firestorm”. The title track set forth an anthem for the straight edge enthusiasts. The beginning lyrics of Karl Buchner screaming “Street by street, block by block; taking it all back” ignited a fire in my heart. The chorus of “A firestorm will purify” just set the ball into emotion. I knew this was a band not to ignore.
The sound changed slightly but in a brand new direction with “Destroy The Machines” and “Gomorrah’s Season Ends”. Laden with crushing breakdowns, angry as hell vocals and fiery lyrics, the band was a hardcore juggernaut with unstoppable force and an infectious sound spawning more straight edge and metalcore bands. “Breed the Killers” was their first (and only) release on Roadrunner which took a U turn to the metal part of their repertoire leaving some fans to fall by the wayside because it was “too metal”. Initially I felt the same way until recently revisiting the album and changing my mind. Then things all turned south with “Slither”. Clean production and melodies were introduced to open the music up for a wider appeal but fell flat the the masses. Fast forward into 2014, Earth Crisis is back with their 3rd album since their breakup in 2001.
The album, which is a rough concept album based on the comic book “Liberator”, tells the story of a custodian releasing animals from a research laboratory and the feel of the album coincides the theme. ‘De-Desenitize’ opens the album up with hardcore riffs and heaviness with some melody dispersed throughout. A great opening salvo to get the message across to the listener. Syracuse’s finest bring the heaviness and sludginess we know in tracks such as ‘Depraved Innocents’ and ‘The Pallid Surgeon’ (my favorite cut on the album). They also get out of their comfort zone with something Earth Crisis isn’t known for: playing fast. The fastest song they’ve ever recorded appears on this album. “The Morbid Glare”, which was also known in production as “Ian Edwards’ Fast Song”, has a tempo so quick the rhythm section had a hard time keeping up. It’s not apparent in the track, that’s for sure.
Although there are some shining moments, there are a few hiccups. ‘Shiver’ mixes clean singing (both by Karl and the gang vocalists), scratchy textured vocals, and some sound effects in the foreground which remind me of tracks from “Slither”. The rest of the album is filled with the same hardcore heard from various other bands with slight differences between their hardcore brethren. At times, I felt I was listening to a Hatebreed album more than the latest Earth Crisis. Don’t get me wrong, I like me some Hatebreed but I also want to hear Earth Crisis when I want Earth Crisis.
In closing , “Salvation of Innocents” might not be the punishing sledgehammer of an album like “Gomorrah’s Season Ends” or “Destroy the Machines”, they doesn’t have to make those albums over again. It’s always a positive when you try new things. Even though a couple tracks fall flat, the majority of the album pushes the message of animal rights and liberation with ruthless abandon. Fans will be very pleased with the album as was I. Now, I need a ham sandwich.