As the mid-noughties deathcore boom begins to fracture and implode, it’s all too apparent that the scene progenitors have kept their standing through a somewhat shrewd infusion of melodic pedigree. Although forefathers such as Whitechapel and Suicide Silence remain as iron clad in deathly extremes, a certain upping of call and response hooks has without doubt widened their impact somewhat, whilst the overt progressivisms of The Faceless et al make for what is now a genre steeped in metallic fruitfulness.
Utah quintet Chelsea Grin are staked somewhere in the middle. With this third full-length effort, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, continuing to hollow out the band’s own niche of both mechanical heviousity and instrumental flair, the result is an affair which is on occasion impressively intense (see the frenzied technical blows of ‘Illuminate’) and frustratingly banal (‘Cheers To Us’ and its misplaced ‘party rock’ lyrical approach).
Indeed, it’s a certain identity crisis here which hinders the record’s potential to be considered anything other than ‘solid’. Whilst the almost tech-death lancing of ‘Undying’ and the start/stop precision of a devastating ‘Morte ætérna’ seethe with malicious intent, some plinky plonky atmospherics cannot save ‘Nightmares’ from becoming a lesson in chug-a-lug rhythmic monotony, whereas instrumental offering ‘…To Ashes’ ramps up the six-string wizardry for a rather frivolous two minutes of show boating dexterity.
‘Ashes To Ashes’ delivers abounding examples of what can be both celebrated and derided about deathcore’s enduring presence in 2014. At its best an unsettlingly potent mix of spin on a dime complexity and depth charge brutality, its worst the epitome of open string routine, Chelsea Grin possess all the necessary tools to stand toe-to-toe with their peers, although with ‘Ashes To Ashes’ lack that cohesive edge and consistent quality to scale the upper echelons of their modern contemporaries. Perhaps picking a side will see a certain songwriting stability yet, as it is, Chelsea Grin are still playing catch up.
Written by Tony Bliss
Founder & Editor for DEAD PRESS! | Atheist and antitheist. | Judge of the quick & the dead since 1989.