Review Summary: Ashes to Ashes has helped Chelsea Grin prove that they have "Evolved" into something better than what they have previously done.
I'll be honest... I stopped enjoying Chelsea Grin's material by the time their Evolve EP was released. I was ultimately disappointed with the not only the quality of their music, but also with the direction in which they were apparently headed. The band was excited to show off all of the new techniques that they wanted to implement on their EP (e.g. clean vocals, more melodies). However, it seemed to fall flat and failed to impress listeners. And that was the day that my attention steered away from the deathcore band from Salt Lake City, Utah...
...And then I opened my latest issue of AP magazine. It was on the second page: "Chelsea Grin's third full length release 'Ashes to Ashes'". After groaning and thinking about immediately turning the page, I noticed the album artwork. 'This looks somewhat familiar to My Damnation,' I thought. 'Yet, somehow, it seems a bit more... advanced'. Usually, I don't base my listening decisions off of what the cover of an album looks like, but I decided to go onto YouTube that day and attempt to find a morsel that would feed my curiosity.
My. God. How can this be? Chelsea Grin is supposed to be trying to make the radio. Not progressing and winning the attention back of their previous long-lost listeners. How can Chelsea Grin actually get... better? Sure, the song that I chose wasn't exactly the greatest. But there were no piss-poor clean vocals. There were no forced choruses in pathetic attempts to make the listener consider them to be "catchy". There were injections of various techniques. I heard djent, black metal, deathcore, metalcore, death metal. It all blended together, like the strongest whiskey old fashioned with just the right amount of sour to make it kick. I found myself thinking, 'I want more...'.
Ashes to Ashes is not necessarily an A+, Album of the Year listen. If you're a fan of aggressive, fast-paced music full of breakdowns and simpler lead guitar parts, I would highly recommend this album. Alex Koehler made the wise decision on this album of not relying so much on himself for doing clean and unclean vocals. The drummer of the band is actually a very impressive unclean vocalist while he compliments Koehler in songs like "Clockwork", "Cheers to Us", and "Letters". While you would expect Alex to assume the full-time position as lead vocals on the album, he fortunately gives equal (if not less than) time on the album to add intensity and emotion to his lyrics. I won't lie and say that Alex's lyrics are phenomenal, but they are a step up compared to his previous work.
When judging music, I usually base my opinion on if I can listen to the album in entirety without becoming bored and also how often I can listen to it. I recently drove an hour from my hometown in Wisconsin to a city in Illinois... about an hour. I listen to the album in entirety about twice in a row. Some songs are skip-worthy ("Nightmares", "Ashes..." "...to Ashes"); but overall, the album is not anything close to their original sound. If you're into metal, this album is worth a listen. Will Chelsea Grin make anything better than Ashes to Ashes? Possible. But probably not.