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Chariot, The: One Wing

It's quite impressive how The Chariot, who began their musical career on the Christian label Solid State, have come to sound so much like The Dillinger Escape Plan. Christian metal's propensity to gravitate toward homogenous metalcore is no secret by now. Groups that once had great potential, Demon Hunter being the biggest example, have largely lost any sense of innovation. In contrast, The Dillinger Escape Plan stand as one of the beacons of innovation in metal today; their crazed, mosaic approach to songwriting led to the production of 2007's Ire Works, one of the best metal albums of the past decade, as well as some pretty painful live shows, including one where lead singer Greg Puciato ran over a chunk of the audience. The Chariot are no longer on Solid State's roster, but they don't distance themselves from the "Christian" affiliation. Fortunately, though, they do what most Christian band should do, which is make the music they want to even if some people might not like how abrasive it is. For the most part they've opted to amp up their sound with some new tricks thrown in, while also cutting away a lot of the metalcore that once played a key role in their sound. These native Georgians prefer a Dillinger-like sonic attack, the kind that lends itself to live shows that usually result in a torn rotator cuff or two.

With One Wing, The Chariot have produced the best iteration of their mathy hardcore yet. One thing they've always done well is make whatever musical point they're trying to make in a concise way; most of their LPs range from the 28-30 minute range, preferring anaerobic bursts rather than long-form experimentation. Everything here is a natural continuation of what we've heard before; they've even retained their penchant for unique song names. The ten songs, each only a word long, together form the two sentences: "Forget Not Your First Love. Speak in Tongues and Cheek." The latter sentence is perhaps the best summary of One Wing: for all the hardcore screams and super-serious interludes, this works better as a fun album than an imposing one.

This isn't to say there isn't some stuff that rocks here. "Forget" and "Not" were wisely chosen as the one-two punch of an opener, as both serve up tech-heavy riffing and Josh Scogin's intense vocals in full force. The Chariot may be very beholden to their influences, but they do what they do well. Being able to balance a derivative sonic with the immediacy necessary to in-your-face hardcore is tricky, but much to my surprise The Chariot really pulled it off here.

However, if there's one thing that's very clear by the end of One Wing, it's that while this is an undeniable step forward, there's a lot of roughness around The Chariot's sonic edges. This is most evident on the more "experimental" tracks; whereas The Dillinger Escape Plan have the innate ability to oscillate between their thrashy metal and other genres like jazz (check out "Mouth of Ghosts"), when The Chariot attempt this, most of the time it sounds like they wrote two separate songs and tacked them together. For a minute and a half, "First" rocks out like you'd expect it to, but after that it abruptly gives way to an Ennio Morricone-styled Western jam that, while well executed, didn't flow organically from the first half.

Subtlety also becomes an issue on a few songs. The closing track "Cheek" is dominated by the audio of Charlie Chaplin's final speech from The Great Dictator; it's a good speech, sure, but just taking the audio and putting it on top of some distorted guitar doesn't really do a whole lot. More than anything, it comes off like a YouTube fan video of the speech. This problem further manifests on "Speak," an entirely unsubtle chiaroscuro where spare piano chords are juxtaposed with Scogin's harsh vocal. It's jarring, and in some ways it even kind of works, but instead of refining their songwriting as opposed to taking two contrasting ingredients and putting them together, The Chariot end up writing some songs that, while good on paper, turn out like a slipshod chemistry experiment.

Where they succeed marvelously in avoiding such haphazard tactics is on the track "and;" beginning with a sample of some relaxing island music, the guitars then cut in violently, interrupting the seconds-long reverie. It's without a doubt the funniest moment on One Wing, and it captures the true spirit of the record. What makes this such a solid listen is how fun and thrilling it is; there are moments of insight and uniqueness to be found, but The Chariot aren't and shouldn't try to be A Really Imposing Metal Band. Had they stuck to the most successful parts of One Wing, they'd have made an exuberant mathcore album that would likely be a heavy repeat listen. For now, they've got some work to do, but given the strength of most of One Wing things look like they will go up from here.

Track Listing
1. Forget
2. Not
3. Your
4. First
5. Love.
6. Speak
7. in
8. Tongue
9. and
10. Cheek.

Added: August 22nd 2012
Reviewer: Brice Ezell
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2144
Language: english

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