Chelsea Grin is a name that shall be met with mixed opinions. People either love them or hate them. Usually the hate is attributed due to the fact that Chelsea Grin proudly associate with the deathcore genre. A genre that many individuals consider to be a joke and many bands under the banner try to escape the label. Also, numerous metal fans don’t consider it to be a legitimate genre as all they do is combine death metal elements with elements from metalcore. Chelsea Grin is one of those bands who could not care what people think of them. In an interview regarding being labelled as deathcore, Jake Hammond (guitar) had this to say: “Everyone likes to flap their jaw and voice their own opinion how ’embarrassing’ it is to be in a band that can be labeled ‘deathcore,’ but honestly we have never given a fuck”.
With their new album Ashes to Ashes, Chelsea Grin bludgeons the deathcore genre to death –word play? I think so. They deliver an album that numerous people were probably not expecting. We had gotten used to Chelsea Grin’s unkempt brutality and synth breakdowns within their previous work. Ashes to Ashes instead delivers a sound that takes the brutality and heaviness of death metal, along with the theatrics associated with it, and combines it with the kind melodic metal that you’d expect from your average metalcore band. It is a major step-up from their previous albums and could be considered a milestone in their career.
How Ashes to Ashes goes is like this: cue the opening symphonic theatrics upon “Playing with Fire” and then launch into a torrid of blast-beats, down-tuned guitars, tremolo picking, chugging melody, false-chord growls and semi-demonic screams. It isn’t necessarily the most unique sound in the world, numerous bands incorporate a sound similar to this, but it is sound that works for them, or rather they make it work for them. It is sort of like a car collision between brutality and melody and the two cars crumpled together to form some contorted and twisted beast. With blast beats pounding all over the place, you feel like you’re stuck in a perpetual break-down and want to continually mosh. Songs like “Morte ætérna” have that feel about them. “Nightmares” bleeds overwhelming synthetic theatrics that attempt to give the song an orchestral feel and make it seem slightly more horrific and macabre, the attempt fails though.
“Waste Away” sees Chelsea Grin shifting to a sound more reminiscent of metalcore with a chugging melody thrown in under the blast-beats and heavy guitar riffs. It is a song that you visualise a massive crowd singing along to at the top of their lungs. The dual combination of “Ashes…” and “…to Ashes” in the middle of the album gives you an instrumental break with the latter being the lofty symphonic sound that progress into the break-downs on “…to Ashes”. Chelsea Grin chases this up towards the end with nothing incredibly creative and just maintains the brutal melody that they have already established.
“Ashes to Ashes” comes with a massive weak-point and that is the lyrics. Now, Chelsea Grin have never been known for having brilliant lyrics, which is actually a pity as they could deliver some fairly powerful messages with their music if they improve their lyrics. Conceptually, the album is a lot more positive than other albums and deals with overcoming real life issues. The problem comes in when they’re delivering incredibly clichéd lyrics that reek of religious intolerance such as in “Pledge Allegiance” where they chant “We’re blinded by a dead man”. Maybe their lyrics are perfect for live shows but it also detracts from the listening pleasure as you are bombarded with their poor quality.
Ashes to Ashes is a step-up for Chelsea Grin. It also quite possibly an album that will give the deathcore genre a better name, or maybe not because we all know how some metal-heads can be. Musically, the album is strong and points to the technical skill of the band. Lyrically, Chelsea Grin could improve their lyrics. Essentially, in a year that has been befit with fantastic releases in the metal scene: Architects, Suicide Silence and Polar, to name a few, Chelsea Grin delivers a rather strong album.