The most wonderfully challenging release of the year. Really.
"Someday, in the Event that Mankind Actually Figures Out What it is that this World Revolves Around, Thousands of People are Going to be Shocked and Perplexed to Find Out that it Was Not Them. Sometimes, This Includes Me."
Try saying that in one breath! It happens to be one of the more extravagant song titles by a band called the Chariot, a fivepiece who’ve been tagged under the metalcore banner, but wrestle with something far, far more extreme. It might be a bit early to make the call, but they’re coming out like the genre’s Sonic Youth. And, even more bizarrely, they’re Christians.
The Fiancée, the loud-as-heck follow-up to their even rawer debut Everything is Alive, Everything is Breathing, Nothing is Dead, and Nothing is Bleeding, shocks from the outset with a severely distorted, guttural scream from vocalist Josh Scogin, and never lets up, lambasting and pummeling us with ten incisive cuts averaging two-and-a-half minutes each. Its total run-time is only twenty-nine minutes, making it a calculated blast of chaos similar to Slayer’s Reign in Blood. But, for your own sake, don’t make the fatal error of thinking that the album is purely noise for noise’s sake; like Meshuggah, there are intricate complexities and metaphorical lyrics to be heard beneath the extremely brazen and choppy surface.
The Fiancée must be taken as a whole to be properly ingested; each track leads directly into the next, coming together in a story-like concept, which explains the band dressing like they walked straight out of The Prestige in the liner notes. Scogin gives an exhaustive performance, from no-holds-barred screaming -- the band completely stops for seven whole seconds in "And Shot Each Other" just so he can let out an almighty "EURRRRRRRRRGH!" -- to an absolutely insane half-growl, and actual singing. But whatever melody there is here is brief, flittery, and often ethereal, perfectly exemplified by opener "Back to Back", which spends most its time violating your eardrums with thrashing staccato guitars and sparse percussion just to get its few seconds of solace.
The most chaotic album I’ve heard this year, The Chariot’s latest work also comes with a guarantee that it’s more extreme than 99 percent of other bands out there. It’s a fine testament to these five lads that they have the chops to write music that so violently tears down the walls between God and heavy metal, steering away from the soppy Sunday-school pap that would make them a quicker buck, and also because there’s just no predicting where it will unexpectedly twist next. A harmonica is viciously wrenched from its usual function as a brightener of Dylan songs and brings "Forgive Me Nashville" to a foreboding, dissonant close, a congregation chant tails a breakdown in "And Shot Each Other", and Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams pairs off next to Scogin’s erratic, throaty emulations on the five-minute "Then Came to Kill"; the latter is an epic by the album’s standards, marked by a very depressing slab of strings, as well as a thirty-second introduction of what sounds like a guitar being painfully tuned.
For all experiments, The Fiancée still tests the definition of extreme. "The Deaf Policemen" is the most straight-ahead track here, evidencing their hardcore punk heritage as well as sampling Nirvana’s "Tourette’s", and combined with "Heard This Noise" constitutes a brutal, unrelenting mid-section. Elsewhere, the album slows radically in tempo for no other reason than it wants to, while "They Faced Each Other" assaults us with a guitar that actually sounds like a buzzsaw. And let’s not forget the band’s faith blesses them with some excellent lyrics, if only you can hear them: "They Drew Their Swords" reaches a climax through the repetition of the line "The wrath of God’s grace is but an ocean to a child". Elsewhere, Scogin screeches, "If there is blood on the roots / Then there is blood on the branches!" over a bleak, lo-fi backing in "The Deaf Policemen", and "Then Came to Kill" incites "everyone in this whole wide world" to "wake up and panic". Why? "You have got all you want / But all you have got is a wreck". Plus, it’s the only album I can name that ends with a hymn ("The Trumpet").
The Chariot is certainly not a band with wide appeal, and The Fiancée is the epitome of challenging... but it’s an immensely rewarding effort, plainly because there is nothing else out there like it. It is hard to follow if it doesn’t have your undivided attention. Then again, there’s less than thirty minutes of blistering, exquisite noisecore to be heard here, and when has a challenge ever stopped music listeners?