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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Label: Solid State Records
Length: 8 cuts, length: 30:21
First rule as a music consumer: don't believe everything the band's publicity tells you. Eso-Charis is a hardcore band out of Arkansas that has been around for sometime, but this is their first major recording. Half of the band consists of members of hardcore outfit Living Sacrifice, and therein lays the problem. Because of the connection between the personnel of the two bands, Eso-Charis spends a lot of time distancing themselves from LS. Their publicity points out time and time again that this is a different band with a different sound. Matt Putnam describes the sounds of the two bands as "worlds apart," but are they really? They claim LS is more technical while this band is more melodic, but I just don't hear it. There isn't that much of a difference. This is still very aggressive hardcore/death metal with a lot of the trademark screaming throughout. Recorded in 1997 it is just now seeing the light of day.
Hardcore is an inherently "angry" form of music, and most of the Christian hardcore bands I've listened to, use that to their advantage, dealing with issues of doubt and self-analysis and the battle between flesh and spirit. But here there are some songs that lyrically come closer to songs of praise and exhortation, which doesn't seem to fit the style of music. Maybe I'm showing my age and prejudice, but it is hard to listen to a song that declares, "Stand up and praise, you must be strong" being uttered in a screaming/growling fashion. There are a few occasions where there is some actual melodic singing going on, but these are few and far between.
In the end, it's just more of the same.
Ken Mueller 12/23/2001
Add eight members, dress them all in boiler suits, and disguise their identities with horrifically gruesome caricature masks of the twelve disciples, and Eso-Charis could be on to a winning formula. Of all the Solid State bands, they are the first to sound (whether intentionally or not) uncomfortably like a Christian parody of Iowa's most infamous sons, Slipknot (with a lead singer also called Corey). Rather than craft hate-laced anthems towards fellow people, Eso-Charis adopt a more laudable, if also cheesier, Satan = S*** attitude, roaring "You're a liar/ Satan we rebuke you in the name of Jesus (Tsunamis)." Unfortunately, the lyrics throughout the rest of the album are no better, never rising above the dry sloganeering and sermonettes of lines like "Stand up and praise/ You must be strong/ There is no compromise/ Decisions made don't come from circumstance/ We better fight back for Jesus (Processed Bodies). Noble sentiments, but creatively rather unpalatable.
Admirably, Eso-Charis have tried to slice and dice their hardcore sound into something a little more off-kilter and unpredictable, but with unsatisfying results. "Born with a Future" starts with a bang and then loses its groove, descending into a plinky-plonky moment that doesn't quite gel, instantly killing the whole song. The opening of "Processed Bodies" sounds like an instrumental passage from Fugazi's latest release. This then erupts into some dense hardcore before shortly transposing back into another Fugazi-esque passage. Again, this doesn't work as intended. Rather than building tension, the softer phases are a release of it. "The Narrowing List" has a fantastic opening, but falls prey to a terrible spoken word passage that sounds like a studio intruder speaking over the din.
Tellingly, the best track on the album, "Spirit of Revival" is also the shortest. The opening rhythms are immediately gripping, with some unoriginal but effective guitar chunks overlaid. It is focused and to the point, wisely eschewing the ill-advised and incongruent softer moments that plague many of the other tracks. Corey's roar is also in need of some tweaking, often sounding (much like Bruce Fitzhugh on Living Sacrifice's Reborn) shrill and verging on breakage.
Overall, this album fares badly when compared with much of the Solid State roster and mainstream titans like Slipknot and Mudvayne. Unnecessary filler for the already bursting Christian hardcore bargain bin.
Shelby Foster 4/3/2002