I had no idea what to expect coming in to review Earth Caller‘s Crook EP, and I feel like that was the best way I could have come at it. The EP’s five tracks were broad of sound and emotion, and it was a surprisingly good time giving a close listen to it. After releasing albums in 2015 and 2018, the Melbourne band’s offering is a short and sweet one.
Bizarrely relevant in terms of what’s going on in the world, Crook‘s opener “Virus” feels great from the outset with its menacing attitude and enticing drum tones. An eerie melody works well to capture this, setting up a ‘Here we go’ sentiment. With a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fluidity, the first verse captures the experience of being judged and not acknowledging the effort it took to be where they are.
With a fleeting moment of feeling like the theatricism of “Virus” might be a little overdone, Earth Caller have risen to the occasion anyway with a well-produced sound. And not coincidentally, they couple “Well I rise above it” with an instrumental climb, which feels surprisingly great. Tight rhythms and high energy craft a relentlessness and the impression of being hard to keep up with.
“Virus” expresses triumph over those who would judge or dismiss you, and pushes back on the idea of being obedient and following an expected path. I understood this concept as the ‘virus’ in question, before the final moment of the song makes it clearer: Those who decide to subscribe to a path of obedience and then recommend it to others are the metaphorical carrier and virus in one.
It was a great opening track for me, going into unpredicted sound combinations (such as a building melody playing out under a rapped vocal section), yet still sounding great. Coming across as both playful and meaningful, “Virus” leapt easily from section to section, and it all felt pretty badass, to be honest.
Continuing the thread of unpredictable song moments, I didn’t expect to hear a hip hop-esque “Yeah… uh…” in a heavy band’s EP, as is there in the first moments of “Spit”. But I was kind of already seeing the genre melding as Earth Caller’s ‘brand’. The track includes a feature from Isaac Black of DVSR, who are a band described as “a fusion of rap/hip hop and metal”. This is a great fit for where Earth Caller are sitting by way of sound.
Talking about realising they’re surrounded by liars and fakes, “Spit” rears up in aggression instead of taking well-meaning advice to ignore it. I love what the guitars do in this song, and I take in the climbing and sinking as being perfectly fitting for the metaphorical rise, fall, before rising again. It sounds great, especially with the rapped vocals seeming to dance lightly over this cycle of forward movement. It’s perfect for someone who’s presenting themselves as superior and unrelenting.
There’s something about “Spit” that has it be entertaining and satisfying in this overdone and menacing way that’s tough to word. And then the Isaac Black feature had me honestly speechless. Impressively in the flow, this ridiculous run of syllables seemed to capture that they’re too dead inside to be vulnerable at the heart, and that their aliveness is in their creativity. Lastly, I felt that the serrated edges of the drums and jagged rhythms suited this aggression and fierceness being shared.
“Push It” was a tougher track for me to get into, but this may actually be due to its subject matter. Violent and solid defensiveness doesn’t give much for an empathetic feelings-oriented listener/reviewer to hook in on, and it took some conscious effort to step aside of that preference and take the song in as it is.
Tense and building, “Push It”‘s spiraling riff creates an uneasy, looking over your shoulder kind of vibe. Again it’s the guitars that had me hyped during my listen, and I fell easily into their progression and mood. Despite not resonating with the subject-matter, the song is a great one by way of instrumentation and easy to be present with.
In contrast to the stone-faced track before it, “I Am No Good” pours palpable anguish out on a platter. It’s a dark and regretful feast that’s punishing from the start. The guitars bleed and intertwining instrumentation has me feel as twisted inside as what’s lyrically shared. As was shared when we wrote about the single, “with confessions of failings and offering apology, Earth Caller are also shining a light on what the impact can be upon loved ones when we go through a hard time.”
“I Am No Good” is like a war cry to people who feel similar to him. It’s for the “headsnappers”, but also more open than we’ve heard before now. I understood the song as a self-punishment for what they’ve done and how it impacted someone, and I appreciated how it sonically shifts between the two perspectives; the fire of self-hate and the regretful apology.
The EP’s final track “Wherewithal” is even more open, and came as a complete surprise as to how it proceeded. 20 seconds in, considering the experience of the EP leading up to this point, the pensive orchestral moment could pretty much have gone in any direction. Gaining strength, the synthy sounding melody worked beautifully when coupled with raw vocals that are exploring what has happened. I found this song immediately endearing, especially given that the vocals felt 100% authentic.
“Wherewithal” continued to reveal itself to be an honest outpouring of thoughts and feelings, with instrumentation that continued to grow. Moments along the way of this outpouring are highlighted by backing vocals and other instrumental choices, and I was pretty much putty in Earth Caller’s hands. The specific references to music and how it “saved my life” were the relatable cherry on top. The song is a brilliant way to end an EP, both reminiscing while also encouraging oneself to continue.
And it has a video. Why’d no one tell me?! Well worth the 2:21.
There’s so much contained in the 14 minutes of Crook, and that title perfectly captures the entirety of it. The sickness of a broken society, the criminal acts, the deceptive friends, the internal brokenness, and how that was in some part remedied by music. Crook may come at the ears with bravado and defensiveness at times, but there’s honesty and heart here too. Having expected that I’d probably hear more of the former, the latter was a present surprise.
I enjoyed getting to know Earth Caller via Crook, and seeing underneath the stony defenses to the softer humanity that exists. Musically, I feel exactly the same, where the roars, punishing blasts, and walls of sound weren’t all that was shared here. There was a lot of fun to be had with how Earth Caller seemed as at home in bouncing rap rhythms as they did in heart-wrenching balladry.
My only question marks about the EP would relate to how some sections came across as a touch cheesy. For example, “Spit”‘s chorus made me smile when it probably wasn’t intended to, right? These moments have the potential to water down something genuine and make it seem theatrical. The fact that Earth Caller can create something like “Wherewithal” proves that they have the ability to be earnest, and free of any kind of edgy facade. This is the version of the band I personally most enjoyed via Crook.
I imagine it'd be tough to sound like tough guys without a touch of cheesiness, but I loved the more vulnerable aspects of this EP.
I loved the 'wow' moments of Crook, including the vocal rhythms at times, as well as how emotive and entrancing the guitars were throughout.