Concert Review: The Chariot Farewell Tour

Greetings to you, lovers of all things music, and welcome to the retelling of my sixth musical adventure in the lovely city of Seattle. Last time I wrote about my fifth viewing of the glorious Between The Buried & Me. 

I decided to put my life at risk by going to see The Chariot this weekend. For those of you who aren't aware of who they are, think feedback-laden breakdowns, frantic vocals, and absolutely zero rules as far as the live performance is concerned. Constant stage dives (by spectators and band members alike), aggressive spinning/tossing of instruments, and climbing/hanging/jumping from anything more than three feet off of the ground.

So yeah, it was pretty fun.

THE CHARIOT - 11/1/2013 @ Studio Seven
w/ Rebuker, To The Wind, and Birds In Row

As stated in several prior posts, I was all about the metalcore scene in the early to middle 2000's. I enjoyed practically every band on Solid State records, home to bands such as August Burns Red, Zao, and Becoming the Archetype. One band in particular - Norma Jean - struck me as much different than the others because of their brand of chaotic and dissonant music, blended with odd time signatures and unique breakdowns. They were described as "mathcore" which is a genre I was wholly unfamiliar with (think The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge). No, they don't sing about quantitative reasoning and rise over run - which would be lost on my math-challenged mind. Despite how awesome that may sound to you nerds, there is no method to Norma Jean's madness.

I present to you the video for the single "Memphis Will be Laid to Waste", from Norma Jean's 2002 debut Bless The Martyr and Kiss The Child. My friends and I spent many long and loud hours in a garage creating our own sloppy renditions of this hardcore anthem, even going so far as to cover it at events where we were recruited to strictly play worship music. We were such rebels.

Vocalist Josh Scogin surprised both fans and band mates in 2002 when he abruptly decided to leave the band. Returning home to Georgia, Scogin almost immediately formed Christian hardcore band The Chariot, taking its name from Elijah's vision of the chariot of fire.

I had a friend in high school who wrote a paper about the difference between Scogin's first band and his new project. He held that Norma Jean's music was more of an organized chaos, whereas The Chariot produced a much more intense sound that followed no rules or conventional forms. If Norma Jean is chaos, then The Chariot is pure upheaval and destruction. Piercing feedback shrills, muddy bass rumbles, and vocals like sledgehammers came together to form The Chariot's 2003 debut Everything is Alive, Everything is Breathing, Nothing is Dead, Nothing is Bleeding. With the mouthful of a title, The Chariot quickly grabbed people's attention, and they stayed for their legendary live shows.

The band recorded their debut live in one take as an entire band, hoping to emulate the raw power of a performance, emphasizing the fact that playing shows was what they solely made music for. From the opening shrieks of feedback and punishing drums comes Scogin's gritty vocals, loudly declaring "This ain't my first rodeo!", I knew that I had to see this band live.

A stream of the band's 28-minute debut.

I received my chance to do so in 2004, when they toured with Showbread, He Is Legend, and As Cities Burns. That was nearly ten years ago, but I'll never forget Josh climbing on amps and hanging upside down from the rafters, all while screaming into the mic. I had never seen anything quite like it. The band came to be known for this type of live show. Here are some fun pictures from some of their shows over the years:

Sadly, my music interests began to shift. I enjoyed much more methodical and technically skilled bands as opposed to the blistering soundscapes that bands like The Chariot and Norma Jean offered. Because of this, The Chariot's second, third, and fourth albums all passed me by with little interest on my part. I had stopped listening to them altogether. In fact, it wasn't until the reviews of last year's critically acclaimed One Wing - the band's fifth full-length - that I thought to listen to them again, seeing as how the album had been receiving high praise.

I wasn't disappointed, as One Wing made the list of  my favorite  metal albums of all of 2012

So after hearing that the band was calling it quits and would be embarking on a final US tour, I knew that I would have one more chance to see them before the end. Nine years had gone by after my first and only The Chariot show, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

The day of the show, my roommates and I arrived in time to catch the band right before the headliner. I surveyed the crowd, trying to pick out which meatheads would be the safest to avoid, and which ones were most likely to break my face unprovoked. I had been to Studio Seven three times, and it had never been as full as it was that night.

There wasn't much fanfare as Scogin and his band mates took the stage. There was no massive fifteen foot banner hanging behind the drum kit, nor was there an intricate light show. Crunchy guitars went through their sound checks, Scogin screamed a line of dialogue from the movie Hot Rod for his mic check, an unusual sample droned from the speakers, and then we were all blasted in the face by the opening assault of "Evan Perks".

The band ripped through 20 songs in a blur. Drums were stacked on top of each other, trumpets were blared (literally), a guitarist found himself in the crowd on several occasions, faces were stepped on, etc. I had spent the entire week listening to the set list in a playlist so as to reacquaint myself with the songs I hadn't listened to in years, as well as to prepare myself for everything I had missed. Oddly enough, I was able to keep track of what songs were being played, despite the fact that if you skipped to the middle of almost any The Chariot song, you would be hard pressed to name the track. Every song was a punch in the face.

Packed shoulder to shoulder in that blazing little room, I found myself lifting up the flailing limbs of strangers onto the sweat-stained shoulders of still other strangers, shielding myself from the whirlwinds of fist-swinging brutes in the churning pit. The place smelled of morning breath and coppery guitar strings. Scogin never let up, absolutely torturing his vocal cords throughout the night, occasionally flinging the mic haphazardly into the crowd so as to get his share of surfing in.

I'll be honest, it was the most crazy show I've ever been to. I've been to super fun shows (New Found Glory), visually mind-blowing shows (Tool), and stripped-down intimate shows (William Fitzsimmons), but never anything like that. Add in the fact that I don't listen to hardcore bands or frequent their shows, and you have a wide-eyed 25 year old and his achy bones enjoying a wonderful and bloody night.

Here are your standouts and burnouts.

Highlights: There was a guy wearing a full-on hot dog suit. That was pretty cool. I've only stage dived once in my life (Nodes of Ranvier), and crowd surfed once as well (Circa Survive). But when The Chariot came back on stage for an encore - and they never do encores - I knew I had to do something stupid to make the night even more memorable. So I looked to the two huge bros in the pit who had been taking volunteers to launch onto the heads of the crowd, and I let them throw me headlong towards the front. My pants were almost pulled off (thanks Dom) and I narrowly avoided getting jumped on by Josh. If you click on this link to the video, you'll see that I'm the moron at 40 or so seconds who absolutely didn't know what to do. My roommates can also be seen if you know where to look.

Lowlights: I mean, you're gonna get silly people at silly shows. Metal kids don't know how to act at hardcore shows, and bald-headed dads are going to defend their kids with as many fists as they can summon. Girls are going to get hit by dudes, and someone is going to serve the toe of their Vans to your forehead. You'll taste their sweat and feel their elbows in every part of your abdomen. And you'll like it, or you'll go home. It's that simple.

The Chariot was a show I'll never forget. I'm thankful that I got the chance to see them before they called it quits, because there's nothing quite like it. If they're coming to your city on this tour, I urge you to catch them, even if you're a fan of heavy music in general. It will be a spectacle, I promise you that.

Alright, I need to quit the metal stuff for awhile and go listen to something quiet.

Until the next show,


Words: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Lights: Battletoads & Double Dragon
Sounds: Lights & Motion, The Chariot, Erra, Impending Doom

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