Flash back several years and EARTH CALLER were in the fast lane. Announcing themselves on the scene in 2015 with the explosive Degenerate, the rising Aussies seemed hell-bent on setting hardcore alight. Yet it was not to be as their bubbling momentum was stopped dead in its tracks as the lineup imploded with frontman Josh Collard being the sole survivor. Now, armed with new personnel, EARTH CALLER are ready to pick up from where they left off with their sophomore effort Crystal Death. Does this new offering land the killer blow and cement their place in modern hardcore?
If there was any doubt whether EARTH CALLER could recapture that explosive energy showcased on their debut then rest assured, as the opening salvo that is Pipe Dreams instantly lay these doubts to rest. Riffs bounce and slam in chaotic rhythm whilst Josh Collard‘s spits vocal lines with absolute venom. It’s a powerful and incendiary start to the record and sets the stage nicely for what follows.
Indeed, the first half of Crystal Death follows very much in the same vein as Pipe Dreams hints at. Sucka is a whirlwind affair with thrashing riffing from Zac Noble and Justin Murphy performed at breakneck speed whilst Collard‘s hip-hop influenced vocal barks add that bounce and keeps your utmost attention. Similarly, the beatdown nature in the opening No Forgiveness creates anticipation before unfolding into a soaring and emphatic chorus full of power and empowerment and the slick combination of Collard‘s vocals and steady riffing in Exposed makes for a massive anthem in the chorus before cascading into one of best breakdowns on the record. It’s utterly emphatic and demonstrates the sheer talent at EARTH CALLER‘s disposal to craft music that packs a punch.
Yet for all its ferocity, and this is definitely a aggressive and down-right angry record, there are splashes of melody across Crystal Death which showcases the band’s versatility and an insight behind Josh Collard‘s motivations and experiences. The emotionally driven Dying Beside You presents the first cleans on the record which are backed nicely with subtle gang shouts to hammer home the poignant lyrical subject matter whilst the mid-tempo chug and gorgeous lead guitar lines featured on Mirror add a dynamic flair and make it a stand-out moment in the record’s final third.
However, despite its solid moments (and indeed there are many of them) Crystal Death is not a royal flush. A Ghost fails to match the record’s opening blows with the solitary cleans before the final chorus buckling the momentum somewhat. And whilst the subtle use of orchestral elements behind the riffs is a nice touch, it just lacks the same bite and tenacity as the rest of the album. The same unfortunately applies to Fall. Whilst the majority of the track serves up another bout of explosive hardcore with shell-shocking power, the chorus becomes increasingly repetitive lacking any killer hook and the guest vocals from Sophie Jes do little for the track’s aim of delivering a poignant and emotional listening experience. Fortunately, this lull in the album’s second half is quickly resolved as the final trio of Mirror, May 16 and Hold On ensure the album finishes with a flourish. Following from the solemn and moving Mirror, May 16 whips up a storm with frantic guitar play, venomous breakdowns and Collard‘s vocals are yet again impressive whilst Hold On utilises melody in the best possible fashion as Collard gels brilliantly with guest vocalist Taylar Paige to create a moving and lifting end to the record.
For Josh Collard to come back from the brink is one thing, but to deliver a sophomore effort as solid as Crystal Death is a massive achievement. There are moments that fall flat sure, but this is a record that is packed to the brim with killer riffs, vocal lines that display the attitude and anger of hip-hop and showcase a band that have evolved in the years since their debut. Crystal Death showcases a band that has grown, evolved and pushing their incendiary sound forward. The world is now very much their oyster.
Crystal Death is out now via eOne.
Like EARTH CALLER on Facebook.