Review Summary: The Chariot release their most ambitious - and best - album to date
The Chariot have always been somewhat of an enigma. Vocalist Josh Scogin’s history with his previous band Norma Jean as well at the two band’s extremely similar styles, has always had The Chariot in the awkward position of having to live under Norma Jean’s shadow. Like the stereotypical younger brother living under his older brother’s aura of athleticism/popularity, Norma Jean’s reputation has long out-shined The Chariot's formidable back catalogue. The main problem is that while there were (and are) some fantastic tracks in their history (‘Back To Back’, ‘Daggers’, ‘Yanni Depp’ and ‘And Shot Each Other’ are huge standouts), they’d never really released a standout record, one that truly had a sense of a wholeness and conviction as a single entity. Then they released ‘Long Live’ in 2010. It wasn’t a genre-defining album by any stretch, but it was without doubt their finest work to date and showed what they were truly capable of.
So, how does a band follow up the best album of their careers to that point?
The answer is, of course, in the best possible fashion.
'One Wing' is without doubt the best album released by The Chariot to date. The mind-destroying speed and mathy time-signatures are all still there, as are Scogin’s demonic, screeching howl. The southern rock-influenced guitars are in full swing as well, as are the quirky audio samples. In fact, the whole mix radiates a warmth which can largely be attributed to Matt Goldman’s considerable skill in the recording studio.
This time, however, there’s so much more to it. I must confess that I’m a massive, if slightly paradoxical, fan of The Chariot. I love their music, but only in small doses. I simply wasn’t capable of sitting down and just listening to the entirety of ‘The Fiancee’ in one sitting, its simply too demanding on me as a listener. This time, however, I’ve listened to its entirety five times today alone. Its much more accessible than their previous works, while simultaneously keeping you more on your toes than previous output.
More than that, not all of the samples are simply thrown in to lighten the mood (a role they frequently filled on previous releases). The best example of this is found in the album’s final track and standout track ‘Cheek’. Its a six minute epic (by The Chariot’s standards, anyway) that is almost entirely comprised of a speech composed and orated by Charlie Chaplin, urging humanity to a global unification in peace. It’s highly reminiscent of the song ‘The City’ from ‘Long Live’ and has just as much impact as Scogin’s rant did there.
There’s a lot more experimentation to be found on ‘One Wing’ though. The other standout track, ‘First’, starts out with a really hard-rocking southern riff, which turns into a Wild West theme song that wouldn’t have been out of place in an old Clint Eastwood film.
The Chariot have always been heavily influenced by The Dillinger Escape Plan and this is best demonstrated in second track ‘Not’. The timing is extremely erratic while still maintaining a semblance of order, while guest vocalist Bryan Taylor’s style is extremely similar to Greg Puciato of TDEP and helps add a great dimension (as well as a nod to TDEP) to the song.
Other examples of experimentation include the clean female vocal harmonies that make up the entirety of ‘Your’, the piano-driven ballad with Scogin shrieking pleas to the listener to forgive one another and the sludgy, groove-laden track ‘Tongues’, which features another piano interlude midway through the song.
The use of sludgey tuning is prevalent in this album, and is best shown in the aforementioned ‘Tongues’. It has a fantastic groove that you can headband and rock out to and changes up enough so that the listener’s interest is maintained. There’s also a real heavy edge that is reminiscent of Slipknot’s self-titled debut, which also finds its way into ‘In’ before that track becomes so drenched in southern rock they it wouldn’t be at all out of place on a Maylene and the Sons of Disaster album.
All in all, there’s a lot to like and love about this album. There’s enough variety to keep the listener occupied and it is incredibly well-composed. If you’re a fan of the genre, I urge you to give this a listen.
However, this is by no means an album for everyone. This is, by the band’s own admission, their weirdest album so far. It’s chock-full of unusual samples and experimentation and many find their mathy direction, borderline-insane compositions and Scogin’s vocals to be confusing, frustrating and irritating. However, for math-metal fans, this is up there with some of the best Dillinger and Norma Jean releases and if you keep an open mind then you will not be disappointed.