Growing up in Upstate New York and coming of age principally in the late ‘90s, Earth Crisis was a big f’n deal in my high school. Emerging from Syracuse, the hardcore pioneers dominated the regional scene, headlining shows all over the Mid-Atlantic and New England, eventually signing a major label record deal and having a real chance at bringing their brand of vegan hardcore to the masses.
Suddenly in 2001, it was all over. The band called it a day just as it seemed the pendulum of fame was swinging toward them. The legacy of their career laid dormant and nearly forgotten. The story of Earth Crisis, for all its promise, seemed incomplete.
That was until 2007, when the classic lineup reunited and resurrected the band. The solidarity of that lineup is a big part of the Earth Crisis story, as it lends the band a strong continuity of message and identity. This in turn characterizes the band’s eighth studio album (counting “Last of the Sane,” which I know not everyone does,) this one being released under the title “Salvation of Innocents.”
Really, it’s almost like Earth Crisis is starting all over from zero and trying to work their way back. Having previously been affiliated with major names like Victory, Century Media and Roadrunner, the hardcore legends are now armed with a deal from upstart label Candlelight Records and their new songs take on a hungrier approach.
The first indication that Earth Crisis is refining and re-employing the metal tone that separated them from the multitudes of backyard hardcore bands is the cut “Slither,” a track that oozes menace through the slogging churn of an almost doom-laden guitar riff. This is the first moment on the album that truly and noticeably grabs the listener’s attention and forces you to take notice.
Just a little farther down is “Razors Through Flesh,” which is the album’s other stand out track. There is an infectious, visceral movement to this cut that’s resplendent in its violence without being overbearing or nonsensical. This is coupled with a fury that’s refreshingly pure; the anger of too many bands in this vein, be it hardcore or metal, feels manufactured or at least unworthy of attention. Contrarily, Earth Crisis’ venom, anchored by the tireless vocal of Karl Buechner, is both tempered by understanding of the moment and anchored in honesty.
The unfortunate thing is that “Salvation of Innocents” has ten other songs on it. They’re not bad, but neither are they monumental or particularly outstanding. This is one of those scenarios where it’s easy to say ‘well, this is an Earth Crisis record, so if you like other Earth Crisis records…’ That can seem an incredibly lazy cop-out by a reviewer, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Let me be frank – Earth Crisis and by extension their new album is still a pillar of what hardcore (or metalcore, depending on how specific you want to be,) can be. And while that’s certainly praise-worthy, it’s also limiting, because the implication is that “Salvation of Innocents” isn’t more than that.
It’s great to see one of the old-school innovators of hardcore still working and pounding out new material that can stand up to their catalog. That being said, nothing on this album will change your mind about Earth Crisis or their chosen genre.