Hardcore potentates and animal rights activists EARTH CRISIS are back for another round with their eighth album and Candlelight Records debut, "Salvation of Innocents". This time, the band offers a multimedia experience if you seek out their tie-in comic book, "Liberator" through the Black Mask imprint. As this writer is a loud 'n proud rocker and comic nerd, this already has me smiling well before loading the music up.
"Salvation of Innocents" may sound in spots the like contemporary hardcore artists who EARTH CRISIS inspired, but as the 'core scene at-large has quieted down considerably, the door is wide open for guys who'd paid the others' dues for them. There's a fair sense of justice in that. The opening numbers "De-Desensitize" and "Out of the Cages" blast like trad speed and skid hardcore rips ("Out of the Cages" being the fastest song on the album), but the dynamic of the album changes instantly afterwards.
The crawling proto power shakes of "Shiver" make it one of the exception to the norm tracks on the album, stepping as far out of the hardcore gutters as EARTH CRISIS can without abandoning their identity altogether. The switch to haunted, near Gothic melodies on the choruses of "Shiver" are a huge attention-getter and not until the band briefly doubles the pace do they sound like a hardcore band on this song. The abrupt switches of themes on "Shiver" make it a genuine standout, considering the headstrong thrusts of the songs surrounding it.
The continued slowing down of "Razors Through Flesh" allows Karl Buechner to viscerally describe the torture of laboratory animals so those who should stand guilty can clearly hear their indictments despite Buechner's brash hollering. If you didn't know the platform EARTH CRISIS stands on, you'd think it was a 'core-oriented death metal jam. Afterwards, "Depraved Indifference" and at least the verses of "No Reason" keeps the reins pulled back and the intended implications of violated animals' death throes are well-felt. Even "The Pallid Surgeon" keeps a checked-down pace on the verses, though loading the guitars even heavier as Karl Buechner deepens his chokes and lingers upon his animal abuse tirades.
"Devoted to Death" finds the band merging standard hardcore march rhythms and double-kicked verses with singular, rock-oriented choruses tailored for a glorious headbang. Next "Into Nothingness" teases EARTH CRISIS' listeners with Dennis Merrick's tempo variations that rise in velocity then yank back to teeth-mashing stomps as Ian "Bulldog" Edwards (rumbly as ever on the album) follows suit on bass. The breakdown on this cut seethes and flows instead of interrupts, bringing the drive right to Scott Crouse and Erick Edwards, who dish a savory solo section on the dime before "Into Nothingness" skulks to a close. "Final Breath" likewise rolls through different paces, but the guitar solo is so exquisite, the colliding disorder becomes more poignant as the album's closer.
As products of their time, EARTH CRISIS kicks out "Salvation of Innocents" in near nanoseconds, even with most of the songs moving at mid-tempo. EARTH CRISIS minces no words nor time in making their point. Thus "Salvation of Innocents" is a success from veteran vegans and mashers who've turned to the comics realm to help send their pro-planet and animal guardian message to the masses that grows more indifferent the larger it becomes in numbers. Steampunk comics have recently emerged as a counterculture phenomenon and beforehand, punk and hardcore inspired "Tank Girl" and "Punk Rock Jesus", and to different latitudes (with added shades of Goth), "The Crow". The books are bipolar opposites in theme, but they hit the right nerves and in the case of "Tank Girl" and "The Crow", reached their target audience before being swept into the mainstream.
EARTH CRISIS hardly appear destined for the mainstream; they never have nor have they ever courted it. "Salvation of Innocents" has a weighty prospectus about it, but only certain ears will get it beyond EARTH CRISIS' perpetual inferno, even if it's designed to give Karl Buechner's hollering litany more clarity. If you don't get what he's screaming about on "De-Desensitize", you've already proven his point.