Chelsea Grin - Ashes to Ashes - (2/10)
Published on July 27, 2014
Just bury it already…
I’d like to start off this review for the latest record from Chelsea Grin by saying this: I don’t hate deathcore on principal. In fact, the Whitechapel release from earlier this year will probably make my list for best of the year. I enjoy hardcore influence in my music and deathcore as a genre has more to offer than a majority of ‘true’ metalheads are willing to give it. Yet, after partaking in Ashes to Ashes, the fourth album from the Salt Lake City band, I have to say that it exemplifies all the things wrong with the genre.
The worst part about Ashes to Ashes is that there is a core potential for Chelsea Grin to really push the boundaries of deathcore. The band throws in a lot of progressive like elements to expand on the cut and dry deathcore sound. The foundation of the band is still very much built on the deathcore concept though. Barking vocals with screeched punctuation, breakdowns galore, and occasional dueling guitar leads just for shits and giggles. The problem with all of these elements is that Chelsea Grin never fits them together in a cohesive and focused manner. 90% of the riffing is breakdowns or breakdown simple guitar work (I don’t care if you occasionally noodle over it randomly like on “…To Ashes”) and the writing just sort of careens haphazardly towards any direction that seems least convenient. Ashes to Ashes wants to be progressive, but it just feels like a tantrum with instruments.
On their previous EP, they experimented with some Cradle of Filth like symphonic elements and layering and it really seemed like the band was pushing towards an expanded sound. Those symphonic and melodic elements remain on Ashes to Ashes in little pieces, but the band seems unsure of how to make it fit together. They sort of pop up here and there in scattered bits, not creating that unifying thread that would have made them work. “Letters” starts off with an almost industrial like synth, but it’s dropped after that (sans a weird moment that’s similar about a minute and twenty seconds in). “Nightmares” leads in with an intertwined piano, melancholic guitar line, and chimes…only to ignore it later. “Waste Away” adds in some almost melodic vocal lines to the screaming and barking for the chorus and polishes with some of those synth elements. Only to have most of them feel forced.
Say what you will about the deathcore scene and even Chelsea Grin, but there is some potential in there for something that will last. Ashes to Ashes, however, has the terrible fortune of being the kind of record that’s memorable, but only for the massive amounts of disappointing choices made on it. It is way too long, lacks any kind of consistency of sound or quality, and simply tries to force the listener along for the ride as the band pummels through the unfocused writing and scattered performances. I still believe there is a solid band to be found in these deathcore forerunners, but it’s not to be fucking found on Ashes to Ashes.