I’m all for evolution, but in the genre of deathcore, the stigma of evolution can be interpreted wildly differently from person to person. For Salt Lake City outfit Chelsea Grin, evolution means a lot of things, such as the introduction of singing vocals and more atmospheric elements (that wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror film). Immediately this will divide deathcore elitists and fans alike. Their new record the Evolve EP is sure to take a few left turns to the average CG listener, but for a more seasoned CG listener, there’s plenty to start practicing your floor and windmill punches to.
Firstly, this is a relatively short listen – at 20 minutes and 53 seconds spanning five tracks, you’ll have a quick opinion developed. Also, thanks to a couple lineup changes in the past few months, you’ll notice a few things are different this time around, particularly the introduction of clean vocals. They don’t dominate this EP by any means, but I feel they’re well-placed throughout the mix, most notably in the single, “Lilith.” Vocalist Alex Koehler offers a pleasant but dominating tone to his singing style as he wallows all over the course of this track. It’s adequate, fitting, and impressive. On the other side of the coin, the man is still a monster with his absolutely demonic shrieks and guttural lows that when paired together just right (the beginning of opener “The Second Coming”), they truly raise the hairs up off of your head. He has grown immensely as a vocalist during his stint with the band. Every other band member is up to speed as well; they all drop massive loads of thunder onto these tracks, and believe it or not, it’s not as many chugs as you might think. In particular, closer “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the most melodic and optimistic sounding song in terms of chord progression/structure I’ve ever heard out of them – miles apart from the bloody and messily structured violence of their very first release, the Chelsea Grin EP.
So taking a quick tour through the record, “The Second Coming” is utterly brutal the whole way through, but cleverly uses strings and other miscellaneous instrumentation to give it this almost Egyptian feel – similar to something you might hear in the classic movie “The Mummy.” It totes along with typical deathcore flair, breakdowns galore, rad guitar solos, and brashly furious intentions. It’s satisfying in a preliminary way. “Lilith” is the first left-fielder I mentioned, and all the way through it delivers; even lyrically, it professes unrequited love and comes off as profound honesty rather than shallow cheesiness.
“S.H.O.T.” is your general breakdown run-down, not really offering much to the table besides plenty of chances to head-bang and some nice groovy parts. “Confession,” although starting off with the most generic of breakdowns, actually redeems itself with tasty guitar licks and plenty of off-time moments that will really throw you off for a second. It’s ultimately just a more interesting version of the former track though. Closing the record is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which as previously mentioned is the other left-fielder that will either be loved or hated. It’s use of stylistic clean vocals, almost optimistic chord progression and the strange bridge section complete with civil war-style drums and horns may throw off many of the elitists. You’ll either welcome the change towards a more original and interesting approach to their music, or you’ll hate it. I welcome it with open arms.
Chelsea Grin, who have attracted so much hate in the “scene” for their generic style and predictable demeanor, definitely did what no one really expected: they made something off of the cuff and actually evolved. Ultimately, I think it is without a doubt a step in the right direction, and because of that I think the next step could hold lots of promise for those interested. This proved to be an enjoyable listen, and maybe their next release can be as much of a surprise as this one was.