Jul 122011

(NCS writer Andy Synn reviews the new album by venerable metallic hardcore act Earth Crisis.)

A confession – though my tastes these days run more towards black metal and melodic death metal, when I originally “found” the alternative scene it was through hardcore. Introduced by an older, wiser friend via a series of bootlegged tapes of various hardcore acts (Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Sick Of it All, Vision of Disorder, etc), it was music with a primal grasp of aggression that was totally different from anything else I’d heard. I was familiar with rock and metal, there were bands I really liked in both genres, but the passion of hardcore really hit me hard. I was hooked. And although following my induction into hardcore I got deeper into much heavier styles of metal, ending up discovering the speedy melodic attack of melodic death metal and the oblique darkness of black metal, I still retain a love for the sound and am anxiously awaiting the next V.O.D. record in particular.

But this is about Earth Crisis, once a relentless hardcore force of straight-edge aggression, who after several years in the wilderness returned to the fray with 2009’s To The Death, kicking and screaming with renewed energy and vitality which carried them all the way to the front of the hardcore pack once more.  Now Neutralize The Threat doesn’t make many massive changes from the formula that brought Earth Crisis back to prominence, but it does serve to further cement their position as an unstoppable and fundamental force in heavy music.  (more after the jump . . .)

Opener “Raise” gets things off to a fine start, machine-like riffing and gravel-edged vocals that bring to mind the earlier, rawer days of Machine Head, condensed and packed into a bare-bones and brutal 1:25.

Neutralize The Threat” only builds this energy further, electrified Slayer-esque riffage and satisfyingly brutal drumming continuing in the punishing vein of the album opener. The bass-lines are taut and rigid with tension, exploding in thunderous bursts of rumbling power that provide a deep foundation for Karl Buechner’s impassioned and raw screams of rage and frustration. The song also manages to create an escalating sense of threat and terror, which lifts it head and shoulders above other, more brainless, proponents of metallic hardcore.

Total War” opens strongly, with a hypnotic, machine-gun riff driving the song forward. The shifting, melodic chords of the (extremely catchy) chorus add a different element to the band’s sound that recalls the blistering melodies that infected Breed The Killers, while the awkward harmonics of the bridge draw influence from the more angular sounds that permeated Slither.  Although a little repetitive at times, the song breathes a fiery passion that keeps interest levels high despite its at-times-predictable structure.

100 Kiloton Blast” is a slower affair that mixes synchronised detonations of booming bass and drums with live-wire melodic guitar leads which, despite presenting  a slightly darker tone, leaves little lasting impression overall.

Thankfully, follow-up “Counterstrike” is a revelatory song bristling with the energy of a band half their age, packing in a crippling variety of shifting rhythm changes and vibrant riffs into its sub-3 minute running time, while even taking the opportunity to exploit a twisted wah-drenched lead to add further dynamism. Vocally, the song also revels in an excess of blood-drenched screams and bitter hardcore growls, the combination of throat-scraping vocals and vehement lyrical bile expressing a deep-seated sense of frustration and justifiable anger that transcends the aggressive posturing that so often limits the genre.

The uncomfortable and at times stumbling delivery of “By Conscience Compelled” occasionally robs the track of momentum, certain riff changes and stylistic shifts in the song’s early minutes coming across more awkward than I feel was originally intended.  Pleasingly, the latter half of the song tightens up considerably with some great guitar work playing off contrasting anti-harmonies with stuttering, down-picked riffage, although the track as a whole still comes across as less compelling than I would have ultimately liked.

Any issues presented, however, are immediately dismissed by the one-two assault on the senses of “Black Talons Tear” and “Askrari” (Arabic for “soldier”), which maximise their output of riotous vocals and energetic, punchy riffage to great effect. The bulldozing crush of the former incorporates some surprising flashes of melody and oppressively dark atmospherics, while also toying with bass-led moments of restraint and reverb-drenched, moody guitar lines, while the steady, slow-burn of the latter brings a ruthless, predatory vibe to the proceedings. At times the track borders on death metal levels of intensity with its monstrous chords and grinding bass-lines.

Disappointingly, although “The Eradicators” possesses a nice line in galloping metallic guitar work and stark, intimidating guitar leads – lending the song an element of catchiness that it otherwise lacks – overall the song lacks any truly memorable moments of clarity or vigour, instead flailing rather ineffectively without any sense of focus.

Pleasingly, however, the album does end on a high note with the bleak strains of “Raze” providing a damning indictment of the futility of existence. Short, sharp and devastatingly focussed, the song is a remarkably exhausting work out of brutally heavy guitar beatdowns and prophetic, cataclysmic vocals. Moments of buzz-saw melody interject themselves into the hammering riffs to provide a subtle contrast which only serves to enhance the over-powering heaviness of the song.

To be brutally honest, I would say that overall Neutralize The Threat is not quite as good an album as To The Death, failing to scale the heights quite as frequently while also unfortunately (and unexpectedly) plumbing the depths of mediocrity at times. That being said, it is still a very strong record in many respects, with a raft of individual (and surprisingly varied) songs which efficiently transcend any weaknesses otherwise displayed. The best songs on the record could stand toe-to-toe with the best the band have ever produced, whilst even the worst still show signs of life amidst their otherwise flailing display of directionless sound and fury.

A thematic exploration of construction and collapse, thematically building up an edifice of primal strength and biting aggression, only to remorselessly tear it down to nothing once more, this record acts as a showcase for both the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of metallic hardcore – as demonstrated by a band who, at their best, remain an unstoppable force of righteous fury.

Sample Song: “Counterstrike

[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/05__Earth_Crisis_-_Counterstrike.mp3|titles=Earth Crisis – Counterstrike]

Recommended For Fans Of: Machine Head, Walls Of Jericho, Slayer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earth Crisis will release Neutralize The Threat (their seventh album) in the U.S. today — July 12 — via Century Media Records. The CD was produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed). The cover artwork was created by Ryan Clark.

MetalSucks has an exclusive full-album stream going at this location, which will give you a chance to hear all of Neutralize the Threat before deciding whether to pounce on your own copy.


  1. Is there any clean singing on the album???!!!

    • No sir, there is not!

      (He says with authority… desperately racking his brains to make sure he’s not wrong…)

  2. I was but a freshman in college, in the late 90’s when I heard my roommate bumping Earth Crisis for the first time. I was immediately transfixed by the sheer anger and aggression pumping out of those speakers. The music was simplistic, yet innovative with their earlier material containing dozens of unique sounding riffs in every song. Even though hardcore was oversaturated during this era, with Victory Records churning out any band with a scream-o, white guy front man, Earth Crisis had a sound and a niche that was all their own. They could be imitated, but never duplicated. All the elements that made EC so great, are completely absent from ANY of this new material. Maybe it’s just that after all these years, my tastes have changed? But this music is boring, watered down, and has no soul to it. I’m not feeling the conviction in Karl’s vocals, either. SOunds like some guy being forced by the label head into screaming because that’s what’s cool and will sell records at Hot Topic’s across the country. Give it up EC, you’ve forgotten the oath that set you free.

  3. I don’t really listen to a lot of hardcore, but I liked this! It’s not a run out and buy it immediately for me, but it sounded good.

    I’m not sure about the straight edge thing though. I mean, I can get behind not destroying your life with heroin or crack or meth or what the fuck ever…but the idea of saying that I should never, EVER drink whiskey kinda makes me think you’re a silly-walking-funny-pants-wearing goose. I mean, just absolutely crazy-pants-silly goose!!!!!

    But, that aside, good music!

    (To clarify, if you don’t wanna drink whiskey, I’m totally cool with that. Straight edge just seems like a weird life philosophy to me. Ya’ know?)

  4. Morbidcorpse, I do not understand your comment: “SOunds like some guy being forced by the label head into screaming because that’s what’s cool and will sell records at Hot Topic’s across the country.”

    Label Heads are what are ruining metal/hc these days by forcing them into CLEAN SINGING, not screaming. You have it totally backwards–nobody thinks that they will sell more records by screaming. It is selling out with clean singing for teenie-boppers at Hot Topic and Bestbuy that has ruined pretty much all of my formerly favorite bands…look at the new UNEARTH for example…Disgusting example of a SELL OUT!!!!

  5. Please do not feed the trolls.

      • In all seriousness the best way to deal with aggro/homophobic/trollish comments is not to address them directly. Don’t reply. Don’t rise to the bait. Don’t legitimise them with a response.

        I am thankful for a platform to express a reasonable and considered opinion. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and welcome discussion/disagreement, but thankfully it’s gotten to the point where I don’t really even see the sort of comments which exist solely to aggrandise the commenter themselves, the sort of “superior”, “I-know-better-than-everyone-else” type of comment which exists only to legitimise the commenter’s own viewpoint, rather than raise any serious issues or considered dissent.

        The more you learn to ignore such things, the easier it becomes. They just… disappear into the general sound and fury of the internet.

        But still… I think this album will appear on my “disappointing” list at the end of the year. Even though I think several songs are absolutely KILLER… the record as a whole isn’t. Hard to put the feeling into words. Ah well.

        • I don’t know how many posts we’ve published here since we started this thing in Nov 09, but I think this is the first one where the comments have degenerated into “go fuck yourself’s”. Not a bad accomplishment. I also agree 100% with your thoughts in the first 3 paragraphs above.

  6. Sounds like good old fashioned EC to me… I think his vocals have improved…

    • I think the vocals are just as good as ever myself too.

      Plus I forgot to mention there are some great backing vocals, deep gutturals and savage snarls – which I think might be Bulldog. But not sure. Just… some really good, powerful vocal work.

      Still reasonably disappointed by the record though, half killer, half filler. Hurts to say that.

  7. Wo, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but nobody told me to go fuck myself lol

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