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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Chariot -- The Fiancee

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9/10
NOTE: This album contains a Nicsperiment favorite, but if you only care about that, you can skip to the third paragraph.

The Chariot up the stakes on their second full-length album, The Fiancee. The title itself hints at greater aspirations--is The Fiancee the Christian Church, or does the title simply imply anyone in waiting? Josh Scogin has never been overly direct in his lyrics, but many of his metaphors are straight here. "If there is blood on the roots, then there is blood on the branches," "fortune wears a red dress, but her bones smell of death," and "beware these sheep in the costume of wolves (see what he does there?)" hint at the truth and buried things never ably concealed, the contradiction in aesthetics and the underneath. The first eight track titles actually derive from the anonymously written "Backward Rhyme" aka the "Contradiction Poem," and Josh seems to be screaming at the contradictions of the church from the perspective of one inside. He does emote about the hope found within, particularly in the striking "And Shot Each Other."
"And Shot Each Other" is musically innovative, beginning with an old '20s record sample, jumping straight into sledghammering riffs, dropping out to feature nothing but Scogin's incredible voice, picking the music back up, suddenly shifting into a punk passage--and then the song breaks down and the Sacred Harp shape note singers show up. Yep. Shape note singers. This sounds a little bit like the singing from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but with a southern bent, and with the vocalists singing, "We feel the resurrection near, our life in Christ concealed, and with his glorious presence here, our earthen vessels filled." Yes, I realize this paragraph is unlikely. Also unlikely is the incredible way that this ambitious track somehow works. It is a stunning artistic expression of the truth getting out even over the failures of those who contend they believe it.


As good as this song is, though, "Then Came to Kill" takes the cake. If these reviews have given the perception that I like a lot but love little, here is some brief gushing over some music that I love. The ambitious lyrical aspirations of this song form a great base for extreme emotions. "They all stare, but no one speaks. They all claim, but no one seeks. They all hear what they want....they all close the door because no one speaks out loud...the fade out." If you've spent any time on this blog, you know that when I do deign to talk about my beliefs, I can get really angry at halfway Christians. That's mainly because I don't believe you can halfway be a Christian. You either are or you are not, and God bless you either way. But if you consider yourself to kind of be a Christian, you can go to hell. It doesn't work that way. You either believe Jesus is the only way to God or you don't. You can't pick and choose which things Jesus said that you agree with and still say, "I am a Christian," and you can't live your life that way, either. To do so is tragic, and that is what this song is poetically and thoughtfully about...at 100 decibels. Musically, this song features a near shocking collaboration. Josh Scogin's throat-shredding is paired with Hayley Williams' near-operatic singing. Yes, THAT Hayley Williams. The song starts out with some mysterious distortional pinging, then erupts into a keyboard-choir led jam before the band and Scogin go nuts. Scogin's screams of "Everyone in this whole wide world, wake up!" are chill-inducing, and the song has only barely gotten started. The craziness continues, and can't seem to get more intense, and then the bottom falls out. The rest of the song is a slow, beautiful grind, as Hayley's voice comes in to match Josh's. What proceeds are two absolutely astounding vocal performances. The passion in both of their voices is almost unbearable. I can't listen to this song without crying. Both vocalists push themselves to the limit, but the most incredible moment is actually non lyrical. As the two vocalize the lines "Just because you kiss a lot, don't mean you're in love, and just because you've begun, don't mean that you've won," both run out of air at the same moment, right after the second "because." As both gasp for breath, there seems to be no way the song can get more powerful. Then Williams and Scogin somehow blow the roof off, climb to a new level, the band gets more intense, strings come in...


Overall, The Fiancee feels like another musical transition for The Chariot. While the chaos is still apparent, there is a slight shift from art-metal, to, if such a thing exists (and if it does, it does here), "art-punk." The rhythm section especially espouses more of a punk influence in their playing, but the art I mentioned in my previous review is more prominent as well. The band are far more apt to feature space, silence, moments of noise or distortion, or to just cut out everything and let Josh's scream stand alone. This makes for an even more engaging listen, and makes the band's unpredictability an even larger tool and asset. The Fiancee is fine work.

2007 Solid State Records
1. Back to Back 1:33
2. They Faced Each Other 2:01
3. They Drew Their Swords 2:31
4. And Shot Each Other 4:00
5. The Deaf Policemen 2:43
6. Heard This Noise 2:44
7. Then Came to Kill 5:00
8. The Two Dead Boys 2:36
9. Forgive Me Nashville 3:11
10. The Trumpet 3:17

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