Depraved Indifference No More: Earth Crisis’ Scott Crouse on the “Salvation of Innocents” Reissue

During my extensive conversations with Earth Crisis for our recent Destroy the Machines Hall of Fame I got the vibe that the band felt its most recent record, 2014’s Salvation of Innocents, had been a bit overlooked. And upon revisiting this animal liberation-themed epic I had to admit I personally hadn’t exactly given the record its full due six years ago. (Sorry, dudes!) It’s actually a really diverse, intense record full of these intricate structures and a great, nuanced, multilayered vocal performance from Karl Buechner that fuses his “classic” era roar onto melodic vocals that split the difference between the (absolutely overlooked) 2016 Freya record Grim and 2000’s divisive Slither. (For those interested, my defense of the latter is here.)

I suppose in a way it’s a good problem to have — that is, possessing a back catalog still so relevant and seared into fans’ minds that you’re forced to compete with yourself, essentially — but the Candlelight reissue (out this week) should nevertheless be taken as a welcome second crack at Salvation.

Legendary Earth Crisis/Sect guitarist Scott Crouse was not only up for a short chat with Decibel about the reissue but also sent along a couple pages from the accompanying Liberator comic made in collaboration between the band and Black Mask Studios.

Is it a challenge at all to do what this record does so well — namely, honoring the legacy while carrying the sound to new places?

We are all very proud of Salvation, but I think we all also understand that people who appreciate our songs from 1993 may not be on the same page as us these days. Ultimately, we make music for the love and creativity of it. That being said, yes we are all happy to see a little life pumped back into something we put a lot of hard work into and still think holds up today. I think it’s a mistake to try and write songs based upon how you think they’ll be received. It’s impossible to predict what people want to hear from you, and — especially with a band like us who have touched on various sounds throughout our years — it’s nearly impossible to guess which of them are still relevant today. We write what is honest at the time and hope it connects.

It’s amazing how the songs on Salvation have such an organic flow and distilled power despite the intricacy. Do you think coming back to Earth Crisis on your own terms and timeline in 2007 was a boon to the band’s creativity?

I do think we were fortunate to have some years to reflect on our previous albums — and even reconnect with them — before starting to write new songs. While we were going full-time in the 90’s, the previous albums were always pushed aside to make way for a fresh perspective. It wasn’t a bad way to operate as I think it made sure we never wrote the same album twice, but looking back sometimes I think the style changes were a bit to drastic. Gommorah’s is a real outlier of an album — my personal favorite of ours — but only very subtle elements of that one made it’s way into the songs that followed it. Looking back and noticing that helped make our three post hiatus albums maintain a common element that keeps them all identifiable as the same band I think.

Some of the melodic elements and grooves actually feel like perhaps a more fully actualized and integrated callback to Slither. Is that all in my head or did you find a less turbulent way into the sound you were looking for on that album?

There is definitely an intentional nod to Slither on Salvation. I could take the mystery out of the post hiatus albums and break down which were callbacks to which of our 90’s era records, but in an effort to get people to listen to them more, I’ll see if people can figure that out on their own.

Considering the band’s rep, it might come as a surprise to casual listeners or the uninitiated that this record was the first to focus solely on animal rights. Was there a particular reason you chose to so strongly reaffirm that conviction at this point in your career?

It is a common misconception amongst the bands critics that most of our songs are about straight edge and veganism. Truthfully, usually only one song an album was dedicated to each topic. We’ve covered a lot of territory lyrically in our 20 plus years, so I think Karl enjoys being given a box to stay in these days. He really enjoys a theme based album, and we wanted to dedicate something to vivisection. It’s a practice that is still widely regarded among the medical science community, and we wanted to draw attention to that. Salvation was sort of our “Let’s never forget animal testing and vivisection in this conversation.”

Actually, it’s fitting — in a tragic way — that the album is reissued now, in this pandemic moment born of “de-desentization” and “depraved indifference,” no?

Sadly, I think a lot of the things Karl wrote songs about are more relevant now than they were when originally written. Climate change, Native American struggles, and the opioid epidemic are all things we touched on and have become increasingly worse over the years. We have a song on Neutralize the Threat called “Askari” that attempts to paint a picture to why The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was a necessary and successful vigilante group. We see all to well now why such a group was — and still is — needed.

Talk to me about the Liberator comic and how that collaboration came about. The visceral visual element is a force-multiplier for the visceral sonic element, obviously, but were you surprised and/or gratified by how much synergy there proved to be?

Karl had always wanted to do a comic to tie into one of our albums. It was always a pretty far fetched idea — until I stumbled upon Matt Miner and his Liberator comic series, which was about ALF activists. We reached out to Matt and he agreed it would be fun to work together so we made it happen. The issues really came out great and we are so grateful to Matt for helping us out with that.

We would, of course, be remiss if we failed to ask what Earth Crisis is currently up to. The band has been very active and just celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Destroy. Are there plans?

Well, right now we are wishing we could play some shows! We unfortunately had to cancel a European run we had booked this summer and we also had some very cool plans for fall that are now put on hold as well. There seems to always be whispers of potentially doing an EP — maybe that will come together sooner than later? It’s hard to say with the other guys being so busy, but Karl and I stay pretty active doing our other bands. Karl just released an album with his band Apocalypse Tribe on Indecision Records and I know Freya is working on new songs. I stay pretty busy with Sect and I’m also working on some new music with Daniel from Die Young on vocals, James Chang from Sect and Cameron Joplin from Magnitude on drums. That’s called Tooth and Claw and should be poking it’s head out of the sand pretty soon!