Artist: Chelsea Grin
Album: Evolve – EP
Progression. One word. Three syllables. Yet, such a small notion can often times make or break a band, lest done in moderation. At one extreme, a band can quite literally refuse to change their sound, leaving all but the most loyal of fans to become bored with the sound. At the other extreme, there are bands who undergo such rapid and constant progression that their fan base is immensely varied and forced to pick and choose amongst their material. Right in the middle lie Chelsea Grin, who show with their new EP, Evolve, and addition of guitarist Jason Richardson (formerly of Born of Osiris) progression–even at the inclusion of questionable elements–can please old fans and attract new ones.
Fundamentally, Chelsea Grin are still working from the familiar footwork that was established in their debut EP. Quick, pounding drums accompanied by three guitars providing a simultaneous attack of shred and downtuned brutality assault the listener, while bipolar screeched and bellowed vocals provide the icing on the cake. Tracks like “S.H.O.T” and “Confession” feature breakdowns not unlike ones seen on Desolation of Eden’s “The Human Condition” and lead single “Recreant.” Lyrically, Evolve touches on familiar themes, with each track having a different concept, ranging from “The Second Coming”’s alternate perspective on Judgement Day and “Lillith”’s heart-chilling tale of love and loss. Like previous releases, the lyrics are only as pertinent as the vocals delivering them, and the vocals haven’t changed much from their sophomore full-length My Damnation, featuring animalistic, shredding high screams and deep, bellowed low screams vaguely reminiscent of The Black Dahlia Murder. While the vocals are by no means atrocious, they still falter at times, especially when compared to the prowess they displayed on Desolation of Eden.
How then has Chelsea Grin changed? What elements of Evolve are at all…well, evolved? The answer is two-fold, with the most constant change coming from the fretwork of new guitarist, Jason Richardson. While all of Chelsea Grin’s previous releases features some sort of (often half-hearted) technicality, a majority of it came from the drums, with the odd sweep-laden or tapped-out riff accompanying the melodic chug-chug of the other two guitars. Evolve however features consistently engaging and impressive guitar work which wouldn’t sound out of place on–you guessed it–a Born of Osiris album. Richardson’s influence is especially noticeable in Evolve’s closing track, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in which careful fretwork builds up to a monumental solo at the close of the song. Lillith’s chorus is also wrought with sweeping shreddery that, fortunately distracts the listener from Chelsea Grin’s other modicum of progression–the clean vocals.
“What’s that?” You’re probably asking yourself. “Chelsea Grin? Clean vocals? Are talking about the same band, here?” Yes, we are, and believe it or not, they aren’t exclusively bad news. While the creepy, half-muttered, half-sung cleans pervasive throughout the single, “Lillith” are sloppy and out-of-place at best, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”’s clean sections are nothing but pleasing. This clean split (no pun intended) shows that when the band commits themselves to including the new vocal styling in a focused and concise manner, it works. “Lillith,” unfortunately shows the sloppy, half-hearted downside, offering clear evidence of the band’s lack of thought in the construction of what they (for some reason) chose to be the EP’s only single.
Evolve is just that–an evolution. It shows Chelsea Grin narrowing their sights and establishing their own sound, which isn’t so much a change so much as it a refinement of their previous efforts. However, like an evolution, it is only one step in an imperfect process which needs continuous tweaking and attention to reach a definite end result.
By Connor Welsh/Eccentricism