Jason Richardson has taken his guitar, jumped ship from Born of Osiris and brought along new ideas to help Chelsea Grin develop a personality separate from influences they’ve pillaged on their previous albums. Though The Acacia Strain and Bury Your Dead might be heard in the distance, Chelsea Grin reaches into its bag of Suicide Silence and pulls out “The Second Coming” which starts the EP off with cello, harp, bell chime and assorted sampled knick-knacks before roaring into the usual all-out deathcore thud and thunder.
“The Second Coming” does seem more evolved from their previous assault My Damnation. ”Lilith” takes even greater strides. Thicker with orchestration than “The Second Coming,” the guitar work stands out, when the thunder-mixing allows it, and adds progressive fireworks to the track. “Lilith” suffers from Fear Factory fever with its industrial beat kick drum violence.
The arrangement is overly derivative, but the song is an early-ancestor step forward for Chelsea Grin. “Lilith” uses a cleanly sung chorus which is dynamic and involving . The guitar work throughout “Lilith,” as well as the rest of “Evolve is focused, and while It sticks to the deathcore formula by disappearing into percussion-thickening as needed, when they choose to lift the fader, it’s worth paying attention.
Periphery-like djent pops up on “S.H.O.T.,” and contains more premium grade guitar, with the layered symphonic and keyboard elements adding more dimension to the band’s sound. Unfortunately the song doesn’t quite get to any destination, though the ride is interesting. This new direction might disappoint fans who take their death-obsessions too seriously, but the EP isn’t called Evolve for nothing.
Chelsea Grin goes for the gold with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This is nothing less than a towering achievement. Melody and melancholy push their way up front. Alex Koehler’s vocals reach out like emotive shrapnel and yet manage to be brutally beautiful at the same time. The arrangement is ambitious, constantly grabbing the listeners by the throats. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is as moving as deathcore gets. It’s fair to mutter the word classic here.
Evolve isn’t perfect. “Confession” sounds like a left-over and the EP is padded out by a bonus re-do/remix of My Damnation’s “The Human Condition.” The vocals are often unnerving, in a bad way, and the production screws up by letting the deathcore bury the great guitar-playing. Still, Evolve is worth every penny Amazon is asking for it, after forgiving its deficiencies and getting walloped by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
(released June 19, 2012 on Artery Recordings)