I haven’t listened to Josh Scogin shout at me for about 10 years; not since ‘Bless The Martyr, Kiss The Child‘ an album which sounded like Botch, with better haircuts and stupider song titles. ‘Memphis Will Be Laid Waste‘ was always a blast of aggressive, feedback-laced terror though.
Anyway, Scogin hasn’t done Norma Jean for a decade, so let’s stop talking about them.
â€˜One Wingâ€™ is The Chariotâ€™s fifth album and for a band that I had previously lumped in the â€˜shouty-metalcoreâ€™ file, I have to say, Iâ€™m impressed by just how bonkers this is. Sandwiched between the whirlwind of discordant and abrasive noise, is a spaghetti-western set-piece, a church organ backed only by echoing, female vocals and a Charlie Chaplin monologue from the film â€˜The Great Dictatorâ€™.
‘One Wing‘ opens with a swift and stark hammering, courtesy of â€˜Forgetâ€™ (it should be noted that the song titles on â€˜One Wingâ€™ actually spell out two sentences, each containing five words). Vocalist Josh Scogin spits and snaps with rapid-fire intensity, possibly at war with himself, whilst around him, guitars and drums shift and reform like the hellraiser puzzlebox; with each new riff, beat and wailing shred bringing a new dimension of gnawing frustration.
â€˜Notâ€™ follows suit, all gnarly, distorted guitar shredding and big vocal roars. When the backing shouts kick in, itâ€™s as if Scogin has rallied a militia â€“ ready to roar. This feels very Dillinger Escape Plan is execution; jagged time signatures litter â€˜Notâ€™ as does the headfuck pummeling rush of a band trying to fit more music than itâ€™s humanly possible into a track thatâ€™s less than 3 minutes.
‘Yourâ€™ is 68 seconds of beautiful, soaring female vocals, backed by a haunting and quite solitary piano score. It feels like a skit, but at the same time it works â€“ whoâ€™s to say this isnâ€™t as intense as what weâ€™ve heard seconds before hand? It also slips nicely into â€˜Firstâ€™ which starts with Scogin yelling â€œOOOH!â€ as if heâ€™s just flicked the radio from Smooth Classics back to Planet Rock.
Grooves are well defined on â€˜Firstâ€™; strutting, southern-rock twangs seep through the brutal and elaborate drumming, whilst the riffs grow and build around the strained vocal bark. It then all goes a bit Ennio Morricone around the 1:20 mark. Yes, â€˜Firstâ€™ becomes a big, bombastic western piece and it sounds amazing. The transition is seamless â€“ when the horns kick in, the whip-cracks, Scoginâ€™s passionate screams, you know this a stone-cold winner and one track youâ€™ll be skipping back to again and again. â€˜Loveâ€™ swings us back to The Chariotâ€™s familiar hostility, distorted screams fed through a radio, meet bloodthirsty heaviness for the most part. The midsection slows to a barely audible passage of samples, before morphing back into a squealing discordance.
â€˜Speakâ€™ reminds me strongly of Touche Amoreâ€™s â€˜Condolencesâ€™ â€“ a desolate, piano-led piece, featuring Scogin bearing his soul (and his lungs) with ragged desperation. You can hear and feel his voice cracking with the strain, the scorn and the rawness. â€˜Inâ€™ batters back with yet more grooves and oddball antics (what the fuck is that wailing noise in the background and is that a power drill?) This is probably what it sounds like to fall down the stairs whilst trying to play the guitar and the drums at the same time.
â€˜Tonguesâ€™ lurches at a staggered gait, similar to that of These Arms Are Snakes, yet more abrasive in execution and littered with sporadic cymbal crashes and a eerie, howling guitar tone than continues to rise and rise with see-sawing menace. The interlude of soft piano, a steadfast drumbeat, strings and Scoginâ€™s distorted howl feel like a war-montage as our protagonist struggles to get his hearing back after being too-close to a bomb. The explosive return is pure sludge-rock, as The Chariot drag up riff after filthy riff.
â€˜Andâ€™ is back to basics; the animosity and drive splatters through, whilst the brief samples throw the track in different directions. Final track â€˜Cheekâ€™ features Scogin bellowing â€œIâ€™VE FOUND THE ANSWER! OPEN YOUR HANDS! I FOUND THE ANSWER!â€ Over and over, until a drum crash cuts him off and so begins the aforementioned Chaplin sample, whilst a swirling vortex of sound echoes in the background. Itâ€™s unnatural and disturbing, but damn powerful. As the words, â€œSoldiers in the name of democracy let us all unite!â€ sound out, The Chariot return, pick up their instruments and finish what theyâ€™ve started. The end is dense, feedback-strewn and concentrated â€“ cutting off abruptly, making it even more potent.
â€˜One Wingâ€™ is a magnificent 30 minute blast of erratic, yet essential styles. Even if youâ€™re not a fan of heavy music, you need to give this a try to truly appreciate how metal can be done right â€“ essential listening, easily one of my favourite albums of the year.
By Ross Macdonald