Northern Spy Records
Street Date: December 11th, 2015
Northern Spy reissues the first three records by Cleveland, Ohio, post-hardcore band Craw in a limited-edition vinyl box set, 1993–1997. All out of print for two decades or more, these full-lengths—1993’s self-titled debut, 1994’s Lost Nation Road and 1997’s Map, Monitor, Surge—complete a story that concluded on Bodies for Strontium 90, released in 2002 by Hydra Head Records. The new box set lovingly reintroduces these records in a deluxe package including three remastered double LPs and an exhaustive 100-page page book. The book, designed by the team behind one-of-a-kind visually driven label Aqualamb—who have also overseen visuals for the entire release—includes a wealth of unpublished photos and ephemera, an exhaustive oral history of Craw drawn from newly conducted interviews, and a detailed timeline of band activities, shows and releases, stretching from Craw’s 1988 formation to their 2002 break-up.
Thanks to the passion of writer and musician Hank Shteamer, who served as project organizer for the set and funded it through Kickstarter, Craw’s music finally receives the reissue it deserves. We hope that 1993–1997 will spur a reexamination of the band’s place in the lineage of aggressive, challenging, radically unorthodox underground rock and metal.
To celebrate the release of this epic set, Craw are reuniting for two special shows, taking place March 11th, at the Grog Shop in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and March 12th, at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, New York. All band members that played on the albums included in 1993–1997 will be on hand at each show, participating in career-spanning performances drawn from these releases as well as Bodies for Strontium 90.
“Craw’s music is explosive, eerie and downright riveting, combining the visceral rush of metallic post-hardcore, the compositional majesty of progressive rock and the purposeful abstraction of experimental improv, while at the same time achieving a rare, insular coherence all its own.” — Hank Shteamer, writer, musician and project organizer
“Craw was one of those things where the first time I saw it, it just completely blew me away. I’d never heard anything quite like Craw up to that point. They were this strange mixture of noise-rock and metal with this very eccentric preacher-type character doing these weird pseudo sermons over the top of the music. It was just a very potent concoction of elements. Having a seen a band like that expanded the horizons of what was possible, so in that way, Craw definitely rubbed off on Isis.” — Aaron Turner, Isis and Hydra Head Records
“What Craw will use as a moment in one song, another band might use as a theme for a whole album. Craw’s sound is spread out across a universe of disparate musical genres. They never imitate. Other bands imitate them.” — Steve Albini
On Craw (1993)
Recorded by Steve Albini in June, 1993, Craw was the band’s debut album, originally issued by the Chicago label Choke, Inc. in October of that year. Craw is arguably the group’s most intense and direct statement of purpose, a record that juxtaposes punishing heaviness and demented complexity with a remarkable attention to pacing and dynamics. Vocalist Joe McTighe uses the full range of his voice, from an eerie whine to a harrowing shriek, and some of the most strikingly unusual lyrics ever heard on a heavy rock album, to portray a variety of unsettling scenarios: a woman survives a plane crash only to be plagued by a stalker (“405”), a terrorist calling himself the Lord’s Avenger attempts to assassinate an environmental activist (“Stomp,” based on a true story). Clocking in at 69 minutes, Craw is a thrilling, unsettling epic.
On Lost Nation Road (1994)
Also recorded by Steve Albini, one year after the session that yielded Craw, Lost Nation Road came out on Choke, Inc., in November of 1994. Craw’s second full-length finds the band distancing itself somewhat from the metal and post-hardcore elements that featured prominently on its first LP. The sound here is murkier, more shaded and arguably richer and even more menacing than what came before. Driven by conservatory-trained drummer Neil Chastain and virtuosic new bassist Zak Dieringer, the band pushed their esoteric compositional sense into deeply outlandish realms, incorporating saxophones, samples, strange vocal effects and a heightened sense of dynamics.
“It’s like this constantly surging, undulating thing that sucks you in,” says Isis frontman and Hydra Head cofounder Aaron Turner of Lost Nation Road. “All the little guitar lines and intricate drum fills feel like these little tendrils that interlock with each other and overlap and wrap around inside your skull.”
On Map, Monitor, Surge (1997)
Map, Monitor, Surge was co-recorded by Steve Albini and esteemed Cleveland metal producer Bill Korecky at Korecky’s Mars Recording studio in December of 1996. Craw’s third album came out on Cambodia Recordings, a label owned by Craw guitarist and cofounder Rockie Brockway, in the spring of 1997. Map, Monitor, Surge is a strikingly different record than the two that preceded it. This record features new drummer Will Scharf—later known for his work in the crushing math-metal outfit Keelhaul—who brought a looser, more unhinged feel to Craw’s music. The contrast between Scharf’s intuitive, jazz-informed style and the guitarists’ continued interest in wildly elaborate song structures yields some of Craw’s most wired and visceral work, including a three-part suite of through-composed prog-punk miniatures and the 12-minute concluding journey “Days in the Gutter / Nights in the Gutter.” Map, Monitor, Surge would be Craw’s final album with cofounding guitarist David McClelland, whose texture- and noise-driven approach was an integral element of the band’s early work.
“Northern Spy has done a great service by rescuing these albums from obscurity. The 200-page companion booklet is incredibly illuminating, containing an exhaustive oral history of the band (compiled by Hank Shteamer) and rare photos, lyrics, flyers, and a timeline. Listening to these three records for the first time, I experienced a thrill of discovery that brought me all the way back to my teen years. ” – Tiny Mix Tapes
Band Feature on Vice / Noisey
New York Times recommends the box set
This Craw box set is insanely great, @northernspyrecs! Insane. Great. Hard.
— marc maron (@marcmaron) January 3, 2016
Copyright 2014 Northern Spy Records