Ashes To Ashes review by Chelsea Grin

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  • Released: Jul 8, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 5.3 (23 votes)
Chelsea Grin: Ashes To Ashes
3

Sound — 8
Whether or not the concept of deathcore is an appropriate label for the handful of bands that wanted to make the strongest of extreme metal or a narrow niche that is the loudest shark jump in the history of music, it has been growing into a recognized subgenre within the last decade; though that recognition is generally contemptible within the metal world. With the few bands that have been donned with the controversial label, Chelsea Grin has relished it, not only stating older deathcore bands like Whitechapel and Suicide Silence as inspirations, but lashing back at the sour feelings other metalheads have towards deathcore. With their debut album, "Desolation of Eden," Chelsea Grin kicked down the door into the scene with unrelenting deathcore energy, and while their debut album had a dominant metalcore flavor to it (that was fruitfully enhanced by the hearty dose of death metal influences), their follow-up album, "My Damnation," would ride the metalcore influences into a wall of monotony, and was met with a lukewarm response from critics. Chelsea Grin would start to dabble with other metal styles in their formula in their second EP, "Evolve," trying out progressive/symphonic metal elements, and even a hint of clean singing. This would show some much-needed progress in Chelsea Grin's sound, and a promising foreshadowing with what could be expected for album three - now, everyone gets to see what that will exactly be in "Ashes to Ashes."

Looking at its total runtime that's only ten seconds away from breaching a full hour, "Ashes to Ashes" already shows that this is Chelsea Grin's most elaborate composition to date; though in the similar face-value thought process, the idea of a deathcore album, something that generally appeals to a "sprint" mentality rather than a "marathon" mentality, stretching out to an hour-long listen may not be able to keep things interesting from front to back, with some stumbling here and there. That stumbling takes form in songs like "Playing With Fire," "Pledge of Allegiance," "Sellout" and "Angels Shall Sin, Demons Shall Pray," which end up primarily bearing the chug-happy, breakdown-laden typecast features that people point at in order to berate deathcore. These songs also echo the dimension-lacking characteristics that were rife in "My Damnation," which may also be why the aforementioned songs contain an unsatisfying taste, but it's safe to say that even these relatively hollow tracks on "Ashes to Ashes" are better-grown that anything on "My Damnation." For example, while "Morte Ætérna" also suffers the curse of the "all sizzle, no steak" breakdown, the fact that it also touts a hint of acoustic guitar and some quality death metal energy of frenzied tremolo lines and blastbeat drumming makes for a redeeming factor.

In fact, Chelsea Grin have never sounded better than now. With their debut album being all about raw power, and their subsequent releases attempting to branch out into something more, "Ashes to Ashes" proves to be a branch with an ample amount of fruit. In continuation from the influences in "Evolve," Chelsea Grin utilizes more symphonic sound elements like piano and string melodies throughout several songs (with the most reputable example being "Letters"), as well as dark electronic ambience in songs like "Nightmares" and "Clockwork," adding nice dimension to the primary deathcore onslaughts. Chelsea Grin also kicks into high-gear with their guitar elements, not only properly employing their three guitars to their fullest potential with exceptional layering, but displaying autonomous and interesting dual guitar melodies in "Illuminate," "Waste Away" and "Letters," and some impressive shredding in "Undying," "Dust to Dust" and "...To Ashes." Chelsea Grin have also found the sweet spot for vocal layering this time around, so for those that were disenchanted by the paltry screams in "My Damnation," those wrongs have been righted in "Ashes to Ashes."

Lyrics — 6
Lyrically, "Ashes to Ashes" ends up suffering from its size once again. Numerous songs on the first half of the album come off as an aimless collection of boilerplate metalcore themes - from the pyromaniacal "Playing With Fire" to the pre-packaged anti-establishment monger "Pledge Allegiance" and the stereotypical "f--k the fakes" message of "Sellout," these lyrics only function as something to simply scream. It's not until the second half of the album where frontman Alex Koehler's lyrics begin to develop a trace of canon and articulate thoughts that can connect to one another like LEGOs to build a cohesive message: from wistfully recounting the days of blissful inebriation in "Cheers to Us" and "Waste Away," to lamenting how foolish one was with wasting their past in "Clockwork," and accepting that past and looking forward in the final song "Dust to Dust." Though it may be a message that doesn't ring extraordinarily distinct or memorable, it helps establish something in the lyrical aspect of "Ashes to Ashes" rather than being a total hodge-podge of bitter, directionless rage. It's also kind of a pleasant curveball to see Koehler write some uplifters like "Cheers to Us," and "Dust to Dust," seeing as deathcore usually doesn't have, nor want, room for any feel-good songs, so seeing Koehler acting by his own accord and making room is commendable.

Overall Impression — 7
Chelsea Grin may have ended up shooting themselves in the foot (or rather, slashing themselves in the cheek) by putting too much material in "Ashes to Ashes," but while the bland tracks dilute the quality of the album as a whole, it's not condemning enough to be considered nails in a coffin. After picking out the fillers, you get the most mature Chelsea Grin composition to date, and from the multiple bouts of guitar acrobatics and the substantial guitar and vocal layering to the effective usage of synthesizers and post-production effects, this album shows the band hitting their stride. Perhaps the penchant for overblown breakdowns and staple chug patterns will always be a part of their music (and deathcore in general), but "Ashes to Ashes" is bona fide proof that Chelsea Grin is growing into something that can not only endure the widespread lambasting of the stigmatic deathcore subgenre, but also greet it with a bloody, mutilated smile.

32 comments sorted by best / new / date

    vppark2
    Jason Richardson is so under utilized on this.
    ChucklesMginty
    I'm still trying to work out why they need 3 guitar players.
    Robert2511
    Its to sound heaver live, both they also use the extra guitar for parts that can't be played with simply two guitars, much like Foo Fighters
    shadow900
    I think this album was awesome and im an old school chelsea grin fan but its good that they evolved more making there sound there own instead the constant deathcore stereo typical stuff we all know.
    codybetz
    How can anyone hear this album and think it to be shit? Pablo Viveros is a monsterous drummer and he not only plays his drum parts live, but does back up screams and growls live as well on any part he does on the album. (which mind you is quite a bit). Jason Richardson adds new elements of technicality they could have only dreamed of before, while he may not shred up and down on every song,what he chose to add to each song brings so much flavor and feel. Not that he doesn't shy from shredding... cough cough "...To Ashes, Undying, and Dust To Dust" And Alex Koehler's vocals aren't edited, those are purely his voice, they have plenty of videos of them tracking and its evident they are not processed or edited to obscurity. Not to mention Pablo's vocals really add to the mix (Clockwork). The themes vary because they didn't want all the songs to be about the same thing or sound the same. Morte Aeterna and Undying clearly are Edgar Allen Poe influenced, Sellout was actually probably written about BOO from Jason, and Playing With Fire is about well... arson. They also touch on missing your youth, partying, not needing to feel alone, religion, and politics. I just believe most people on this site are biased and don't want to give them a chance, but hey to each their own I guess, just if you read this give this album a chance and I bet you will like at least one song. Btw, the three guitars are for layering live, they can have a riff, a harmony, and a lead all at once, or they can use an octave above as another harmony to add beef like Periphery.
    svelle
    Just listened to the whole thing. F*cking horrible. Thank god Whitechapel released an actually good deathcore album this year.
    MetalRock4ever
    What about Carnifex - Die Without Hope? Though you may not listen to them, then never mind (but do check them out if you haven't already)
    svelle
    Haha, now that you say it, of course I've listened to it. It just has the same problem many Carnifex Albums have. There are so few memorable songs in there. I mean no offense the album is pretty solid, but I'm missing this "I can't ****ing get this song out of my head" feeling. But that could just be me.
    vppark2
    No, I have the same feeling. The drumming seems a bit overproduced, so that bothered me. Im also having mixed thoughts about new Suicide Silence.
    svelle
    The only thing bothering me on the new SS are Hermidas high screams. They sound just painful to me, but I can't change it so might as well get used to them.
    MetalRock4ever
    Well, Hermida has had to write stuff which sounds like SS with Lucker. I'm hoping in the next releases, Hermida will be able to write what he wants to write, instead of following the SS guideline. We'll see though, the album is pretty good , but CG - Ashes to Ashes beats it imo
    Inglig909
    Really don't get the appeal with this band at all. Nothing even slightly interesting about it. Its not even enjoyable to listen too
    Nuclearcrayon
    Yeah I agree. Both linked songs are just the usual chug sessions with "br00tulz vocals". Never have been a Deathcore fan and it doesn't look like this album is going to change that.
    MetalRock4ever
    Though they aren't the best from the album. There are better songs, such as Clockwork, etc. though obviously, it depends on what you like
    Nuclearcrayon
    Listened to it. Instrumentally, not bad but the vocals are awful IMO. It was a great opportunity for some clean vocals which would be a bold move for a Deathcore band but, ah well, not to be.
    BobbyHill666
    Sucks. It's one giant cluster**** of noise. Random synth with shitty djent breakdowns while Jason is playing "herrherrr um fast" nonsense that holds no melody; just him playing fast. Alex's screams are highly layered, processed, and fake. The lyrics are garbage. Glad I pirated it last month.
    TSCreaturesband
    I've always liked this band because they've shown they can break away from the typical 'chugs and growling" that deathcore is played out to be. When they add in more melodic guitars or clean singing, that's when they get interesting.
    Cazman
    Too much stuff going on at all times, and it all lacks direction. It sounds like playing two different songs at the same time.
    croslanddrew
    LOL YOU KIDS, no negatives stated are valid, just biased , narrowminded feeble minds, subgenres ? Really, aka styles of a main genre. Example , CG is melodic, heavy,instrumental. You dont create a genre on chuggs or breakdowns you twat. Its a style of heavy metal, as is the sporadic energy filled songs, Jesus. Music's about energy,lyrics, instrumentals, vocals, diversity is a plus, and Chelsea grin has gone from just sporadic heavy, to melodic and heavy, to now even instrumental, heavy, melodic and heavy in sporadic and structured ways. Best albumn if the year, metal wise.