If any band defies all the stereotypes about Christian Rock, it’s this one. The Chariot are, essentially, a Christian Metalcore band…all their members were Christians, they worked a lot of Christian themes into their lyrics, and they even publicly copped to the label. But most people’s idea of Christian Rock, or even Christian Metal, could not be further from the reality of this album’s face-melting intensity.
Metalcore generally tends toward more conventional melodic structures than the other kinds of Extreme Metal (which is part of the reason it usually gets less respect than those other kinds). But even the edgiest acts from the genre, such as Converge, rarely approach this level of sheer chaotic cacophony. These guys completely ignore the conventional rules of structure that even the iconoclastic genre of Metal is expected to follow, and they make it work beautifully.
But of course, despite how it appears on the surface, the music isn’t really chaotic at all. This is a complex and carefully planned-out collection of music, far from the random noises of such bands as Anal Cunt. Although the lead singer modestly deferred the title in an interview, this band truly belongs to the prestigious subgenre of intelligent and sophisticated Hardcore music referred to as ‘Mathcore’.
There are also lyrical passages here and there to keep the sophisticated brutality from getting monotonous. There is even one song, “Your”, that is in a gentle Indie Pop style totally different from the rest of the album, and the result is jarring in all the right ways. (The song titles on the album are designed to spell out two sentences: “Forget” “Not” “Your” “First” “Love” and “Speak” “In” “Tongues” “And” “Cheek”. This probably limits their extractability, as the titles make no sense out of context, but then, this is an album that was meant to be consumed whole to begin with).
As for the lyrics, while their Christian themes are fairly overt, the truth is that religious themes can make for some highly dramatic lyrics that are very suited to Metal (and do, in this case). After all, the earliest true Metal songs, such as the works of Black Sabbath, were essentially fire-and-brimstone sermons set to music. The final track, “Cheek”, even includes a lengthy clip of the inspirational speech from the end of the classic film The Great Dictator, and yes, they manage to make overtly idealistic and inspirational content mesh effectively with the anger and defiance that are the most fundamental principles of Metal. Such a feat is admittedly not easy, but this band is up to it.
I probably don’t have to inform any of you that Christian Rock has a notorious reputation for being insular and insipid, and Christian Metalcore in particular is known for producing some of the most vanilla Metal out there (look at bands like The Devil Wears Prada). But this band proves that there’s an exception to every rule (or at least every generalization). This album was their last and most critically acclaimed effort, and it ranks alongside Deafhaven’s Sunbather, Machine Head’s Bloodstone and Diamonds, Carcass’ Surgical Steel, and Agalloch’s Marrow of the Spirit as one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums of the current decade. And given how many bands throughout history have fizzled out at the end of their careers, having a swan song this impressive is a true achievement. The band may have broken up after this album’s release, but (no pun intended) they left behind one Hell of a legacy.