Norma Jean

support The Chariot
author NB date 03/03/12 venue Underworld, London, UK

Through the wonders of modern technology, Transport for London are able to transform a mundane 30 minute journey from Fulham to Camden into an epic 1h 30 quest, surprising the traveller with all sorts of exciting extra stops and delays. Therefore, I am able to tell you quite a lot about the inside of a tunnel at various places between Leicester Square and Mornington Crescent and rather less about the performances of Admirals Arms and Dead and Divine. For those interested the former, you can probably find more interesting reviews here, for fans of the latter, there’s always AP’s review of the very same line-up across the sea in Copenhagen.

The Beatles

“We are the Beatles”, the set begins. I could have sworn they were called The Chariot, but I’m not going to argue with Josh Scogin himself (I’ve seen what he’s capable of after all). The Beatles take to the stage with unassuming style. I guess the stage is as good a place as any to start their set but, as usual, these guys don’t appear to make any distinction between the different parts of the room as things progress. Within a couple of tracks, it’s the crowd that’s on the stage and the band that’s in the pit... on the speakers, on the floor and somehow on the balcony with the sound techs behind the audience. The band is engulfing us with both its wall of screeching, distorted noise and its physical manifestation of maniacal, unkempt Georgians.

I’m not exactly a fan of The Beatles. I had decided to remind myself of their last album, Long Live, at work the previous day. As AP comments in the first line of his review, I found it “challenging”; at least that’s one way to put it. The chaos of the album conflicted horrifically with the neat, regimented order of the office. Unbearable. I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to appreciate The Chariot at most points in my life: in the office, in a shop, on a train or up a mountain. But for some reason, there is one place where it works, and works well. It’s in the dark, sweaty confines of the Camden Underworld where everything is chaos, where nothing is standing still, where bodies and guitars are flying past your face in all manner of trajectories, where adrenaline courses through your blood and you fear for your existence, where people swing around the ceiling using various bits of the lighting rig, fire sprinklers and air ducts as if they were monkey-bars at a playground. In this maelstrom, nobody even notices when one intrepid roof explorer tentatively tries his weight on a pipe, and, when it unleashes a small torrent or water (or god knows what else) on the crowd below, thinks better of it, instead crashing face-first into the pillar in the middle of the pit. Yes, this is the occasion when The Chariot can and will be enjoyed. For 40 minutes of spectacular and blissful disorder your face assumes this expression and the cocophany of noises and shapes seems to make sense, before, as suddenly as it started, the madness ends, the world goes back to normal again and I resume my usual thought process: “why would anyone in their right mind listen to this?”.


Norma Jean

What we’ve just witnessed makes the metalcore fare on offer from Norma Jean seem like easy listening classic rock. The Atlanta sexted open proceedings with the ever popular “Leaderless and Self-Enlisted” and what must be an already exhausted audience respond with commendable vigour, all things considered. Musically the band is far more engaging that their reckless offshoots. The sound is tight and precise, despite a highly energetic stage presence. The more accessible interludes, such as "The People That Surround You on a Regular Basis", keep the crowd going whilst the dynamic song structure and rhythmic trickery of the rest of the band’s recent catalogue piques the interest of the more adventurous listener. It’s only occasionally that all this gives way to that raw and unfiltered brutality of Norma Jean’s past, bringing us nightmarish flashbacks of the previous set.

It does seem that Scogin did not leave all that much of his lunatic, audience-embracing ethic behind when he left Norma Jean to form The Chariot as, when members of the crowd take to the stage, Cory Brandan doesn’t look quite so pleased to see them, pushing down an enthusiastic fan who tries to put his arm around his idol. It isn’t until Scogin returns to the stage, to participate in one of the best clean / screamed vocal duets I’ve yet heard in a live show, that full carnage resumes. The audience surges back onto the stage and the density of people and of enthusiasm is evenly distributed across the venue once again. Sadly it is at this exciting point that the annoyingly early curfew brings proceedings to a premature end.


Photos courtesy of Lauren Harris.

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