Saturday, August 18, 2012

Album Review: The Chariot - One Wing

Album Rating: A-
Metalcore isn't dead, but it's definitely been knocking on the door for a while. It's become a stale, formulaic genre: heavy screams in the verses, shrill clean vocals in the chorus, big, heavy breakdown, rinse and repeat. Besides a handful bands, including Buffalo's southern-influenced metalheads, Every Time I Die, everyone's been doing it wrong and sticking to a failing plan. Metalcore doesn't need a breath of fresh air. It needs a kick in the teeth for a wake up call.

Enter the Chariot's newest record, One Wing. They don't just go against the preconceived metalcore success formula. They tear it to shreds and leave it a bloody pulp on the mosh pit floor. What other band includes a one-minute gospel interlude ("Your") that wouldn't sound out of place on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack?  Who else would sacrifice a breakdown for an Old West guitar break and mariachi horns on "First?" It's one thing to be different for the sake of being different. It's another entirely to be innovative.

The Chariot do a lot of things metalcore bands wouldn't dare do, but Josh Scogin and company make listeners love them for it. Opener "Forget" doesn't just open the album with a burst of adrenaline-spiked energy. It kicks down your door, starts trashing your house like a loose whirlwind and gets you riled up for half an hour of fury. One Wing is immaculately produced but still bottles the emotion of the band's live performances like the angriest lightning bug in existence. When you hear Scogin gasping for breath after screams, it just adds to his intensity and furor.

"Not" layers robotic effects over Scogin's voice, but it still comes across more as At the Drive-In punk than Daft Punk funk. "Love" breaks and bends around Stephen Harrison's frantic guitar riffs, but holds up even as Scogin grows steadily towards breaking down and David Kennedy rifles off frenetic drumming.

Scogin promised that One Wing would be a "weird album," and he delivered on it. There hasn't been an album this manic or all over the place in recent memory, and that's where the Chariot shines. They're ballsy enough to do things weaker-willed metalcore bands wouldn't dare try. One of the album's few fumbles, piano-driven "Speak," instead sounds like a Touche Amore hidden track. The plaintive piano chords have been sucked dry by enough "wave" bands. The Chariot's brain trust of insanely creative musicians  know better than to venture in already-charted waters like that.

But, then again, ending the album with the blistering trio of "Tongues," "And" and "Cheek" is nothing short of sheer genius. "Tongues" has a guitar riff that's sleek and slinky as it is aggressive, even dropping into mid-tempo territory to close out its blistering first half. "And" is a two-and-a-half minute little ball of fire climaxing in some a cappella screams from Scogin. But the real gem here is "Cheek." As long as any song buried in their discography, "Cheek" focuses its instrumentation behind a scathing rant from Charlie Chaplin. If Enter Shikari's rambling on "Gandhi Mate, Gandhi" ratcheted up the political spite and ire a hundredfold, it still wouldn't touch the raw emotion on One Wing's closer.

Listeners will shut off One Wing feeling like they had been punched in the jaw, spitting teeth and blood. But this is the album metalcore needed to shock it back into everything it stands for. Forget not your first love. Speak in tongues and cheek.

Visit the Chariot on Facebook.
Pre-order One Wing at Good Fight Records.

Track List:

1. Forget
2. Not
3. Your
4. First
5. Love.
6. Speak
7. In
8. Tongues
9. And
10. Cheek.

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Really disagree with the commentary on "Speak," but to each their own I suppose.