Does “brutal” have a limit? Chelsea Grin don’t seem to think so. The Salt Lake City six-piece out-heavy themselves on their third effort, AshesToAshes. By Brendan Crabb.
In Salt Lake City they like their deathcore with a side of Paramore.
After brutalising Australian audiences at Soundwave 2013 and while supporting our own home-grown heroes The Amity Affliction, Chelsea Grin return with their third record, Ashes To Ashes. The American deathcore sextet’s new offering is heavier than a bag of spanners on Jupiter, a torrent of taut metallic fury, offset by flickers of melody and hefty beatdowns. While hitting the road as part of the US leg of this year’s Vans Warped Tour, vocalist Alex Koehler gave the lowdown on their new disc, not being afraid to channel pop music, and just how heavy extreme music can become.
Did the songwriting or recording process for
differ much from previous albums?
Yeah, definitely. This record we went about it
Ashes in a way we’ve never gone about anything. We all kind of, even our drummer Pablo [ Viveros] wrote his own songs, Jason [Richardson, guitar] wrote his own songs; Dan [ Jones, guitar] wrote his own songs. Then we all came together and made the final product, and then I put lyrics and vocals to it. We just wrote it with a bunch of different genres in mind. There’s 15 tracks on the album, so were trying to make it entertaining all the way through. Like we weren’t trying to write the same song over and over again; there’s definitely a bunch of different styles with this record. But really heavy shit, really upbeat shit, there’s melodic stuff; there’s a couple of songs that are a little softer. With 15 tracks, there’s a lot of room to experiment, so we definitely took advantage of that. We have a pretty solid writing process, but when it comes to the lyrics, I write all those.
How did you tackle penning the lyrics on this record?
This album, lyrically, it’s just more so writing about real life. When I started writing lyrics for this album I wanted to write something that people could take in, and relate it to their personal life. So every lyric on this record has either been something I’ve experienced on a real-life basis, or been directly involved with, with close friends or family. I really wanted people to latch on to this record and relate to it on a personal level. It definitely makes it a lot easier when you’re writing about something that means a lot to you. It’s a lot easier to get into live, and be able to scream it and actually mean it.
Is the new track “Sellout” taking a jab at anyone in particular?
Yeah, definitely. It’s not so much about one person in general; it’s just about a few different people. Like
when you’ve been in the music industry as long as we have, you encounter friends that turn shitty on you out of nowhere and that kind of thing. I’m not going to say any names, but it’s just about shitty friends more or less [ laughs].
Which death metal bands impact on your writing?
This band has always been really heavily influenced – at least on the death metal side – by The Black Dahlia Murder and Through The Eyes Of The Dead and bands like that.
Do the band members listen to much early death metal as well?
Well, when we were younger we definitely listened to a lot of heavier shit all the time. But nowadays we listen to anything from The Black Dahlia Murder all the way through to Paramore. We take all that and put it into our music. When it comes to structuring and stuff like that, we turn to bands like Paramore, like bigger bands, and we try to structure our music like they structure it, while bringing a heavy death metal side into it. Trying to incorporate choruses and repeating parts, but at the same time being heavy. It’s almost like bringing a metal side into the pop structure. Almost, you know [ laughs]. Just because you structure your music like that doesn’t mean that it’s like selling out by any means, it means that you’re growing up, you’re becoming more mature with your music. There’s a reason why pop music is structured that way; it’s because that’s the way songs are supposed to be structured. When you do that stuff with your own band, it’s just writing songs. It’s writing music the way it’s supposed to be written. It’s still gonna be catchy, and you can put whatever genre you want into that mix and it’ll still work.
The token line numerous metal bands will utilise when promoting a new release is that it’s their “heaviest” or “most brutal yet”. However, some critics and musicians have suggested there must be a limit of heaviness that extreme metal acts are eventually going to reach, even if such a marker remains undef ined at this point. Do you agree with that statement?
Oh man, I think that is very false. Because you look back in the day, bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica; that was considered the heaviest shit ever. Back then that was metal; that was the heaviest thing possible, and you look now, it’s bands like us, Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. That is the new heavy, so I’m 100 percent positive that 10 years down the road there’ll be a new kind of heavy that will just be so ridiculous, you know what I mean? It will always evolve; there will always be something crazier and crazier. You can’t really say, ‘ This is the
heaviest thing ever’ because there’s always going to be something that will trump that [ laughs]. With our band, we’re always doing the really aggressive riffs, the really heavy breakdowns. Our whole new record is in G, as far as the seven-string songs go, and then we have a couple of songs that are on eight-strings, which the tuning is just the standard eight-string song. We definitely in my opinion stepped it up on the heaviness as opposed to our older records, just by different tunings. This is the first record we’ve dabbled with eightstrings and stuff.
Shifting topics – when can fans expect to see the band return to Australian shores?
Sooner rather than later. It all just depends on the new record. We have Warped right now and have a couple of plans afterwards, and other than that we’re keeping it pretty open. It just depends on what our new record does, and we’re just going to go from there. Both Soundwave and the tour with The Amity Affliction were fantastic. I especially liked the one with The Amity Affliction, ‘cause it was the first time we were able to come to Australia on a normal tour that wasn’t like a festival-style tour. Those guys are awesome, so it was great. They kill it, and they gave us the opportunity to play in front of all their fans out there and what I thought was really receptive and really cool. So hopefully when we go out there ourselves on another tour, it’ll be just as receptive and awesome.