It's very easy and even almost required for a band, especially Christian bands these days, to do two things to "make it." The first thing is to adjust their sound and style to what is currently appealing to the K-LOVE masses, and the second is to water down their message to make their music marketable in a broader swath of the market. We've seen a lot of this transitioning over the past couple years, especially when it comes to watering down the message (or outright abandoning it). It's in this state of chaos, confusion, and decay that you'll find glimmers of hope and strength in the nooks and crannies of the musical landscape. This is where I have always placed the chaotically beautiful band Earth Groans and I'm glad to say that their new EP, Tongue Tied, continues to blaze a new trail in the musical wilderness.
'Beautiful chaos' has always been my description for this handle-bar-mustache-fronted metalcore outfit and, admittedly, they are an acquired taste due to this. Any fear that I had that there would be any slowing down in terms of aggression and themes was quickly distilled on the single, as well as the album opener "Tongue Tied." Their sound is powered by frenetic guitars and blast beats, punctuated by angry shrieks coming from a heavily tattooed maestro by the name of Jeremy Schaeffer. Musically, it has always been a struggle for me to find an apt comparison, as their style is too chaotic to pinpoint and yet their sound still fits within the confines of metalcore/hardcore/punk. Probably the best I could do would be to point to a band like The Chariot as a good comparison, but even then they have enough experimentation that they have a sound all their own.
Thematically this time out, Earth Groans deals with the subjects of depression, anxiety, racism, and the dark recesses of humanity while pointing back to the hope found in the Cross. This is an important distinction that separates them from many of their Solid State counterparts (outside of WATG), as it's easy to deal with negative emotions in song form, but pointing to the Cross has become almost a pariah type of thing in metalcore recently. I only wish the album was longer, but I also see where the abrasive style is fitting to shorter EP's, due to the frantic pace being too much for even some who appreciate their style.
Overall, Earth Groans does nothing to shatter what they have always done and been. They are who they are and, for this writer, that is a good thing. I do understand that also means they will never achieve any type of recognition like, say, a band like Norma Jean has, but it makes me appreciative of the fact that they are making music for the right reasons. That type of purity is hard to come by these days, and also reminds me of the Scripture "only the pure in heart will see God." I'd never have the gall to say God is a fan of any of our styles of music, but something that brings glory and worship back to the creator is something He delights in, and I am here for it.- Review date: 2/25/23, written by Matt Baldwin of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Tongue Tied, arrives as, perhaps, the heaviest entry in Earth Groans' discography. Each of the five songs find the band at their most ferociously riff-focused. And yet, with each listen, I noticed more intricate lead parts and dynamic sounds (lead single “Overgrown” and the closer “Discordant Symphony”). I’d be remiss to not mention the stellar drumming on this EP, as well - check out the change near the end of “Over the Edge.”
On the title track, we find vocalist Jeremy Schaeffer at likely his most auto-biographical, as he bellows, “Release my tongue, cut out the skin!” It’s not uncommon for babies to be born tongue-tied - with more skin attaching their tongue to the bottom of their mouth, and this actually happened to Schaeffer. And while the line has literal meaning, it’s also a metaphor for anyone finding their voice and way to connect with others. “Tongue Tied” has a lot to say about connecting with others, in fact. On “Same Blood,” Schaeffer ponders unity, “Can we heal the division? Bring a peace that will last. Level the scales of justice. Leave the hate in the past.” Album closer, “Discordant Simphony,” seems to bring things back around to followers of Christ and our connection with God, “Oh God, behold your creations. How can we not sing. Each vertebrate an instrument. Each breath a symphony.”
Earth Groans is a band that I have not paid much attention to prior to The Body. But after seeing them perform late last year, and with the release of Tongue Tied, you can be sure that they have my attention now and for the foreseeable future. - Review date: 3/2/23, John Mark Amos of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Solid State Records
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