Chelsea Grin have at last discovered the art of the song

Never having been much of a fan of deathcore, I approached the latest offering from Chelsea Grin with trepidation.

I’m still not clear why bands of this nature believe they need three guitarists when one or two is really only necessary with today’s technology, but the main sticking points for me have been vocal approach and song writing, which tend to lean towards the annoying and terrible side of their musical equation, respectively. On Ashes to Ashes, Alex Koehler moves between a deep death growl, a gutteral roar and a horrible shrieky scream that becomes tedious after two seconds; that aspect aside, this album is not terrible. It is actually a very heavy record too and the entire band seems be pushing each other to new standards of technicality throughout.

Ashes to Ashes begins with typical deathcore bluster – massively down-tuned guitars, chugging breakdowns, immense bass drops, the usual hallmarks – that will no doubt get their target audience well hooked before harmonies and other less-expected elements begin to appear. As Chelsea Grin move away from the rabid bombast of the opening tracks, subtleties creep in – melodies, orchestration, catchy riffs and traces of lead guitar, culminating in ‘Waste Away’ where all those elements come together in what is probably one of the album’s stand out tracks. Koehler adds some clean vocals in the chorus that actually have balls, not the sugary overdone melodies so often heard elsewhere. It’s at this point that Ashes to Ashes really steps up and shows how much Chelsea Grin has matured as song writers and as a band. The instrumental interludes incorporate some djent motifs that are then carried over into some of the riffing in the second half of the album, juddering stop-start moments borrowed directly from Meshuggah and underlying synths and orchestration that give a sense of true epicness to some of the songs.

While this isn’t an album that I will likely play again and again, I didn’t find myself struggling to get through it either. Here, Chelsea Grin seems to have at last discovered the art of the song and a way to make them as heavy as possible, instead of just being heavy for its own sake.

1. Playing With Fire
2. Pledge Allegiance
3. Morte aeterna
4. Nightmares
5. Illuminate
6. Sellout
7. Waste Away
8. Ashes…
9. …to Ashes
10. Angels Shall Sin, Demons Shall Pray
11. Letters
12. Cheers to Us
13. Clockwork
14. Undying
15. Dust to Dust