Review Summary: 8 years after disbanding straight edge legends Earth Crisis have returned in 2009 with To The Death. A heavier, darker, and more aggressive affair filled to the brim with the unrestrained fury of Wolverine learning he was screwed over by Hollywood.
To be honest the last thing I expected to see in 2009 was an Earth Crisis reunion fitted with a new label signing and a brand new record. But alas here we are, eight years after disbandment Earth Crisis have returned to prominence delivering a scathing blast of political infused metalcore in To The Death their first for Century media. From start to finish, To The Death is a high-velocity roller coaster of aggression seamlessly transitioning from blistering grooves and sluggish beatdowns to thrash influenced soloing and grinding dissonant riffage. The political message of Earth Crisis has seemed to magnify almost tenfold with the lyrics retaining a militant stance this time being more creative and intelligent than before. They like to first punch you in the face and then educate you with some good old fashioned education before repeating the process.
One noticeable aspect that remains to be seen as either damaging or beneficial for Earth Crisis is the expansive production qualities courtesy of Tue Madsen (Dark Tranquillity, The Haunted). To The Death boasts the cleanest production that I’ve ever heard on an Earth Crisis record. At first this sudden shift came off to me as a double edged sword. Because on one hand the clean production sapped away most of the brutish aggression of Earth Crisis of old most particularly the vocals but then I noticed plenty of positives. An absolutely crushing bass tone, excellent usage of gang vocals, a heavier atmosphere, and terrific songwriting not to mention the positive exploitation of the guitars.
Literally, Scott Crouse and Erick Edwards bring down the ***ing house and deliver one of the greatest guitar performances to date with their blend of vicious staccato riffing, hardcore styled mosh sections aka beatdowns, and lumbering mid tempo rhythms reminiscent of Pantera’s yet equally similar to Hatebreed. Soloing has returned, remarkably at that as Earth Crisis have incorporated the full heavy metal element to the max. “When Slaves Revolt” is a prime example to mention. A balls out aggro metal assault complete with Slayer-esque soloing quickly followed up by the minute and a half tribal influenced instrumental “Plague Bearers”. The production albeit clean and produced retains complete control of the heaviness factor as well as spotlighting each and every one of the duo’s movements.
Karl Buechner I suppose of age has somewhat declined as a vocalist and lost most of his traditional drill sergeant bark that was personified on Gomorrah’s Season Ends. However, he makes up for last time with the ill tempered fury of an antagonized bull. Sick of being constantly stung with a cattle prod and humiliated in front of many, the bull extracts revenge on his captors and dismembers and decapitates each and every one of his perpetrators until there is nothing left but a pool of blood and organs. Lyrically, Karl has improved a lot and deserves some sort of flame shield as his socially conscious words reach far and beyond the excess of militaristic control and social discrimination. The topics of animal rights and straight edge still reign at the top, of course, what would an Earth Crisis record be without them? Not an earth Crisis record that‘s for sure. “Security Threat Number One” in particular packs some serious content with comparisons between drug dealers and terrorists being made in the song.
The rhythm section consisting of bass player Ian Edwards and drummer Dennis Merrick fill their role in successfully with a methodical approach. Precise and dangerous, the two feed of each other’s movements quite well. Ian’s bass tone absolute kills lending the already savage environment another layer of intensity. And the drumming patterns are as heavy and punishing as the driving wall of guitars before it. Stop start rhythms, double-bass, and a few tribal influenced beats solidify a strong showing of musicianship from all angles of earth Crisis.
All in all, To The Death is classic Earth Crisis compleet with a modern polish and creative guitar playing for many metal and hardcore fabns to enjoy regardless of overbearing message. As the album art displays two muscular and heavily tattooed arms clenching their fists in blood just underneath a multifaceted skull, one gets the preemptive feeling that this record would sound like the sonic equivalent of being trucked by a gaggle of Gorillas. And that sounds about right. Fans of Earth Crisis will undoubtedly love this despite the recent modern approach and fans of metal/hardcore need to acquire this immediately. Drop the drugs and pick up the dumbbell it’s about ***ing time the world gets hard again…