Every once in a while, you’ll be a bit blindsided by an album that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Ages Unsung, the second effort from Canadian melodeath/metalcore outfit Chariots of the Gods, is one such album. A record full of well conceived, deftly decorated melodic metal, it is hopefully the start of a bright future for the five piece band.
As mentioned, Chariots of the Gods sort of toe the line between melodic death and metalcore. Their riffing style is in the vein of At the Gates, whilst the lead melodies and clean vocals are more in line with those found in your more accessible metalcore acts. They effectively meld the two together, with the marriage never feeling contrived or forced. This is partly due to the production style. It’s a little rough around the edges, giving a clean sound that doesn’t feel sterile or overly polished. This allows the guitar harmonies and melodies (of which there are many) to sound warm and vibrant without the music losing its edge.
After a brief intro, the album kicks off with “Tusk”, during which it gains a momentum that never lets up. Sure, there are changes in pace here and there, but it never feels like things slow down. Transitions between songs and ideas are generally smooth, and there is a real flow to the entire record. The only jarring moment is in “Through Darkness and Decay”. A step out of the comfort zone, it shows the band in calmer territory, with new vocalist Chris Terrien’s sombre delivery not unlike that of Aaron Lewis’ more morose moments in Staind (some may be aghast at such a comparison, but I see it as a compliment; Lewis is an excellent singer). It’s a good song, but then they randomly do a 180 half way through, switching to a faster section, complete with searing solo and a dual guitar lead that is more than a subtle nod to Megadeth’s “She-Wolf” (a trick the mighty Dismember also used in “Tragedy of the Faithful”). It sounds great, but it just doesn’t fit with what came before; a rare sloppy moment on an album of tight compositions.
Guitar duo Dimitri Gervais and Mathieu-Phillipe St-Amour do an exceptional job throughout. Every song has at least one harmony, solo or riff that makes you sit up and pay attention. The phrasing in their leads in particular is exquisite; a perfect blend of speed, melody and emotion. New member Terrien’s gives a decent turn on vocals, with the tried and true combo of clean/harsh contrast. The cleans are where he shines the most, with his passionate delivery and layered harmonies helping the killer vocal hooks come to life. These hooks, in turn, are taken to another level in conjunction with the aforementioned guitar work. Songs such as “Tusk”, “War of the Gods”, “As the Sky Falls” and “New World” have catchy refrains that ooze melody from every pore, but it never feels excessive or saccharine.
Although this is a very good album, it is vulnerable to criticism due to its derivative nature. It follows the lead of many metalcore/melodeath acts from years gone by, with little in the way of adventure. Saying that, it is easy to let it slide due to the high quality of the material. Some of the songs also feel a bit too formulaic and, at times, predictable. The structure of choice appears to be energetic, riff driven verses which make way for the charm offensive of catchy, hooky choruses. This is not an issue in the stronger songs, but the likes of “Into Oblivion” and “Of Prometheus and the Sacred Flame” are rendered forgettable as the musical components just aren’t as strong as their superior siblings.
Overall, this is an impressive album. Chariots of the Gods exhibit fine song writing skills, striking a delicate balance between the abrasive and soft sides of their music. In time, they will hopefully stretch their creative wings and take a few more risks, but for now, they can bask in the glory of a mighty fine record.
Rating: 8/10 – “A record full of well conceived, deftly decorated melodic metal”
Highlights: “Tusk”, “War of the Gods”, “New World”