I’m not sure whether I’m more impressed by The Chariot’s One Wing for how accessible it is despite its coarseness or how coarse it is despite being accessible. I’m leaning toward the latter, given how cute so many of their neutered contemporaries are. Because while the album is filled with chameleonic time signatures and dissonant screeches, there’s a warmth to it. There aren’t a ton of riffs you can hum, and no big, obvious group vocals to scrawl on your geometry notebook or the side of your local 711. But its “unpredictability” isn’t cheap or cloying; One Wing is all over the place, and yet sounds like it’s the product of significant focus. The tablature is complex, but the rest is pretty simple.

Granted, the contradictions above are really new. Weird little Southern diversions alongside your jagged hardcore? Coalesce did the same on Ox. The presence of horns? Revocation and (clearly) El Mariachi Bronx got there first. But the Chariot don’t sound like also-rans, in that they make the album’s idiosyncrasies theirs. Granted, they’ve had some practice, playing in a genre known more for its slavish adherence to Calculating Infinity than, you know, writing music. I’m sure there are people who will think One Wing sounds like a collage of random influences, but really, like the bands in any genre who successfully integrate a lot of disparate elements into their approach, it’s more of an extension than an addition. There’s a logic to the band’s odd paths, which doesn’t make them that odd at all.

With an exception of “Tongues” and it’s central fat guy riff, the mathy chaos of One Wing blends together. But that’s not the point: it’s a great album on the whole, with songs only sectioned-off portions of what it is when complete. Maybe it’s that forethought and heart that makes the record’s asides sound so natural. The central point is so driven and intense that taking breaks between them requires a varied approach. And there’s an earthiness to them: a lot of piano played in chunky chords, and the only clean singing the album significantly employs come in the midst of the closing terseness of “Not” and the genuine calm of “Your,” a beautifully constructed, simple melody with no heaviness involved (and sung by a guest vocalist who can actually fucking sing). With mathcore’s carefully constructed bedlam and the growing reliance on synthetic cleanliness of hardcore bands on the level of The Chariot, a little humanity is quite welcome.

And with that humanity comes a little bit of depth as well. The song titles spell out “Forget Not Your First Love. Speak in Tongues and Cheek.”, which at first glance is typical hardcore nonsense. But upon digging deeper, one wonders whether the phrases are a part of the same thought or if they’re two separate philosophies. The album itself seems to think the latter, as both “Love.” and “Cheek.” end with some similar and truly nasty feedback, presumably punctuating each half. One Wing holds up to this kind of close-reading. “Cheek.” serves both as a pun and, according to the song’s (surprisingly moving) sample, possibly a reference to Christ’s credo of turning the other cheek. That’s some depth worth exploring (and this is coming from a dude who is most certainly not a Christian), and The Chariot make that kind of exploration appealing. They’re a lot of fun, too. That kind of dichotomy is not easy to pull off.

(4 out of 5 horns)


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