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Monday, April 02, 2012

The Chariot -- Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead and Nothing Is Bleeding


In 2002, the band Norma Jean released their debut, and it is perfect.  This led to an obvious course of action: the vocalist left the band to start a new one.  I don't know what Josh Scogin would have gone on to achieve with Norma Jean.  The band he formed after his exit, The Chariot, have released four albums.  Since Scogin's departure, Norma Jean have also released four albums.  It is clear today just what Scogin's contributions were to Bless the Martyr, though, because they are crystal clear on The Chariot's debut,  Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead and Nothing Is Bleeding.
Yes, that is a really long album title.  One immediately sees that the long song titles from Bless the Martyr must have originated within Scogin's noggin.  Also, the sound of Bless the Martyr immediately betrays Scogin's influence once The Chariot's debut is heard: Everything is Alive... was recorded live just like Bless the Martyr, was not overdubbed, and was never mastered.  Norma Jean haven't seen fit to go down this route again, and that isn't a knock--there are merits to both approaches.
With that said, Everything is Alive... sounds harsh.  The guitars are buzz-saws in the listener's ears.  The drums and bass sound like they are originating at the base of one's skull.  On top of that, the compositions are absolute chaos. Scogin and his band completely neglected the concept of structure for this album.  There is high energy chaos, then more high energy chaos.  Every now and then there is a random ten-second banjo or slide-guitar moment, but these aren't incorporated into the songs--they just happen on their own for a few seconds, and then they are gone.  The only track that builds to anything is the truly apocalyptic tale of "And Then, Came Then."  The epic choral breakdown over Scogin's guttural screams, while the guitar and bass groove and the drums go nuts, makes one wish that Everything is Alive... showed this much initiative more often.

Dang, did I just mention Josh Scogin's voice?  When Norma Jean started off as Luti-Kriss, Scogin's scream was digitally altered heavily.  He did away with that on Bless the Martyr and sounded great.  But paraphrase the most underrated character on Futurama, "Sweet Lion of Zion!" With the inception of The Chariot, Scogin's voice has become a force of nature.  While the high energy chaos of the music drives the album and only really begins to grate near the end, Scogin's voice is The Chariot's unrelenting, passionate weapon that never falters. Scogin seems to be channeling a city-sized drill burrowing down to the center of the earth. His screams flow effortlessly from shrill and piercing to beastly growl. I will now unabashedly confess that Josh Scogin is my favorite vocalist, and that includes among people who actually sing (Scogin can sing but DOES NOT for this project). When you can find me someone who conveys more emotion with their voice, I'll change my mind.
So in the end, while the complete formlessness does hurt The Chariot's debut, Scogin's voice carries it through to its 28-minute completion point. Unless of course you don't like screaming, in which case I hear Hall and Oates are still rolling along.

2004 Solid State Records
1. Before There Was Atlanta, There Was Douglasville 2:15
2. 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 it Was Not Them. Sometimes, This Includes Me 1:58
3. Dialogue With a Question Mark 2:11
4. Die Interviewer (I Am Only Speaking in German) 2:40
5.  And Then, Came Then 5:19
6.  The Company, The Comfort, The Grave 2:26
7.  The Bullet Never Lies, and Time Will Prove All Things (An Allegory of Unfaithful Jerusalem) 2:57
8.  Yellow Dress: Locked Knees 1:59
9.  If Wishes Were Horses More Beggars Would Ride Them 3:09
10.  Good Night My Lady, And a Forever Farewell 2:59

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