Review Summary: Chaos incarnate.
The Chariot's 2004 debut full-length plays out a lot like a sledgehammer: it's heavy when it comes out swinging and heavy when it comes down. The Southern Gothic album artwork creates a dark and foreboding mood that hints at the skull crushing things to come. The Chariot formed when vocalist Josh Scogin left the metalcore band Norma Jean peacefully. This decision still holds a lot of controversy in the metalcore world. Many listeners find the forming The Chariot as a great misstep not just in Scogin's life, but for metalcore in general. They see it just as a bunch of headache-inducing noise. Well, I can't disagree with them on that.
Taking influences from early hardcore and extreme grind outfits, The Chariot emerged from the growing metalcore scene in the early-mid 2000s to show that they can create something truly unique, something math-y, and unabashedly abrasive. This is by far The Chariot's heaviest album to date and marks as the start in an inconsistent, but interesting, musical journey. "Everything Is Alive..." is almost perfect in everything that it's trying to accomplish. There are only a handful of moments where the music comes together in a melodic fashion, yet it still has order within all of its chaos. The album's mix was left unmastered upon release to give it a messy and unorganized feel on top of all of its already ugly sound. Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about The Chariot is how they have such great disrespect for their instruments. Guitarists Tony Medina and Keller Harbin create incredibly dissonant Deadguy-esque riffs and drummer Jeff Carter switches unexpectedly between frantic blast beats and bludgeoning double bass rhythms. Bassist Joshua Beiser cranks his guitar way up throughout the tracks to the point where his constantly sliding riffs are unmissable. The true chaos that the band creates is astonishing and always lights up a feeling of excitement in me. Few other bands can be so insane while maintaining a great sense of energy and musical prowess throughout their compositions. Though The Chariot would rather be making noise than any sort of conventional song, but they still show that they can apply enough tempo shifts and time signature glitches to make the song have a strong theory-based backbone. To add more edginess to the album, almost every moment without a guitar riff is jam packed with piercing feedback. "Everything Is Alive..." really makes feedback another instrument. It adds an even more rugged feel to each track and is situated in all the right places.
The opening track, "Before There Was Atlanta, There Was Douglasville," is introduced with a loud feedback loop. Soon, a swift double bass rhythm pounds through. Scogin yells, "This ain't my first rodeo," and the album doesn't slow down much from there. This first track compiles all of the signature elements of The Chariot into one concise package: gritty breakdowns, squealing riffs, and sudden tempo changes. Later, in the track "Die Interviewer...", The Chariot shamelessly uncovers their Southern roots (being from deep in the heart of Georgia) with a staticky banjo intro, but then dives right back into the band's grindy sound. This shows an element of surprising humor that will continue throughout their whole discography. Scogin's distinct, yowling vocal delivery becomes most apparent towards the end of the song and exhibits a great amount of passion. "And Then, Came Then" (the longest track of the album) finds the band doing a complete about-face right in the middle of the album. Beginning with a soft, forty second orchestra intro then possessing probably the heaviest riffs on the album, it is made clear that this song is all about extreme contrast. There are some disjointed guitar melodies throughout the song that are a bit shocking to hear, but after a massive minute-and-a-half breakdown, the orchestra makes an epic return. This feels a bit out of place, but still pushes the song to new heights and adds a whole new dimension of emotion. However, the band is back to their normal tricks within the last bit of the song with out-of-tune chords and pounding drums, just so you don't forget who you're listening to. "Yellow Dress: Locked Knees" is perhaps the most grind-influenced song on the album with its berserk drum patterns and sudden vocal trade-offs between Scogin and Harbin. Scogin's lyrics are in the spotlight here. His lyrics are cryptic poetry and they even delve into Spanish on this track. The album comes to a close with "Goodnight, My Lady..." and pretty sums up all of the destruction that preceded it very well. It's a short track, but it includes the greatest elements of the songs before, and features an awesome, sludgy ending.
The Chariot create an excellent piece of dangerous art here. It cannot be looked at too intensely on a musical or lyrical level, just because it's all so strange. All of the pieces fit nicely, though. The album clocks in at under 28 minutes, so the torture doesn't last for long, which was very smart of the band's judgment. They have created some wonderfully deranged tunes, but they hold a healthy sense of control as well. This album often goes unnoticed in the band's discography and the metalcore world as a whole, which is an enormous shame. This album is fearless and showcases a professional use of appalling musical techniques. It is undiluted chaos that should be remembered for a long time to come.