The Bard once wrote: “No legacy is so rich as honesty,” so I’ll be honest here. I have always been a fan of The Chariot, but never to the degree where I ran out to buy their albums. Throughout the band’s career, I’ve only been what one might call an “informal admirer”—sitting back in my stretchy pants, streaming songs online and buying one or two tracks here and there. Because I’m such a cheap loser, One Wing was the first full Chariot album that I bought; and thus, this review will be a little different. There won’t be so much comparing One Wing to past releases; instead, there will be more examination of the album as a single work of art. (At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.) In any case, from the songs I’ve heard over the band’s career, they all seem to build towards this album: warming their muscles, cracking their joints, and preparing their fanbase for the musical onslaught that is One Wing.
With this album, The Chariot once again wields their distinguished scepter of chaotic metal and, like some sort of deranged king, uses it to clobber their subjects’ ears until they bleed. Josh Scogin leads the attack with his raw and earthy screams; Steven Harrison and Brandon Henderson kick it on guitars; the infamous Jon “KC Wolf” Kindler plays his swansong via bass (or does he?); and David Kennedy discretely pulls the musical pandemonium together with a tornado of drum beats. Along with the band’s lineup, the album also features a number of guest musicians and vocalists who add some flare to the metal’s unexpected twists and turns.
The 30-minute journey begins with “Forget,” kicking the album off with grinding, energetic guitar licks that dissolve into a disorganized orchestra of screams, drums, and eerie, goregrind riffs played between a thick and heavy breakdown. “Not” follows with similar ferocity, but with more vocal variety—including electronic filtering, hardcore roars, punkish yells, and spoken word. After this track comes to a close, the album is interrupted by a soothing Southern lullaby performed by Angela Plake. This short piece, complete with organs and the beautiful close harmony of the vocalist, might’ve rocked me to sleep if the album didn’t immediately jump back into action. The Chariot’s signature sound pulses throughout the album, sometimes loud and sporadic, other times slow and crunchy with influences in groove and hardcore. There are also more surprises to find throughout the album, including a song that evolves into a baritone guitar spaghetti western, a track with the vocalist and a lone piano, and the final masterpiece, “Cheek,” that contains Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from The Great Dictator. (If this track doesn’t send chills up your back, I’m afraid you’re either deaf or dead.)
Progressing the music’s superiority even further is the lyrics. If you don’t get a physical copy of One Wing, at least find a copy of the lyrics online. I know that all of us metalheads pride ourselves on our academically-acclaimed ability to translate screams, but we always risk missing something…and we definitely would here. Not only does The Chariot use brilliantly crafted lyrics—full of arranged titles, one liners, witty word play, and innovative stanzas that smell of Modernist poetry—but they also twist spellings to convey different meanings. For example, in “Forget,” Scogin belts the line: “Patients my dear, the waters coming. Rest with peace.” Likewise, in “Not” the trick line is: “Poison takes in vain…Your portrait smiles in vain.” The common digital listener would easily miss these distortions; and, darn it all, that would be a shame.
Like most of The Chariot’s lyrics, their implications can be vague, but that doesn’t subtract from their artistry when shrieked over music. My favorite lines include: “Some dragons are misunderstood,” “Stand in line or turn and draw,” “She was beautiful like cancer,” “They lost their voice in the choir,” “Keep the car running,” and “The forest marches on.” They even give a brief nod to The Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love,” putting a darker twist on it with the addition of: “We are all capable of love. We are all capable of cancer.” The mention of ghosts and trees also appears throughout the album, possibly suggesting some sort of plotline that I tried and failed to flesh out.
Along with the music and lyrics, the artwork for One Wing is another significant factor that makes this album so good. When I first saw the art, I knew that I needed to own a physical copy of the CD. Trey Moseley‘s seemingly absurd painting perfectly represents the album’s hectic sound and ambiguous lyrics (especially the tracks “Forget and “And”); and although the work is never shown in its entirety, more pieces are revealed within the CD booklet.
Overall: One Wing is an unconventional album (loosely rooted in the genres of metalcore, mathcore, hardcore and punk) that’s emotional and entertaining in both style and delivery. With this album, The Chariot not only proves that they have the power to create chaos, but they prove that they have the talent to capture it, contain it, and shape it into something worth listening to—something beautiful. There’s no doubt that The Chariot’s comfort zone is outside of their comfort zone, and it definitely shows in One Wing.
RIYL: Converge, Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Oh Sleeper, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Training For Utopia