Fun, frolic and faith are the three things keeping Christian metalcore outfit THE CHARIOT at the top of their game.
Story: D.X. Ferris
“Blessed be the Lord, Jesus Christ,” says Chariot frontman Josh Scogin, leading a group prayer at the beginning of the band’s new DVD, The Chariot: One More Song. The blessing is immediately followed by a two-minute montage of onstage destruction: The Atlanta quintet chuck basses at brick walls, hammer stages with weighted mike stands and swing guitars like they’re chopping wood. For Scogin, the complicated leader of this brutal Christian metalcore crew, a life of faith doesn’t mean constant serenity. Contradictions are just part of life’s rich pageant.
The chaotic footage is followed by clips of shenanigans with fireworks, filmed during the 2006 Sounds Of The Underground tour, where the Christian soldiers shared a bill with death-metal iconoclasts Six Feet Under. As it is now, so it was five years ago when Scogin was fronting the promising young metalcore band Norma Jean. “We always shot bottle rockets in our van,” recalls Norma Jean drummer Dan Davison. “We had these things called sissy masks, for when we were blowing stuff up in the van. We’d take a cardboard box and cut holes for the eyes, then put a CD case over the opening so you could watch it without getting stuff in your eyes. [Scogin] asked me to shoot one at his face, and it hit right in between his eyes, and he went right down. That kind of stuff used to happen all the time.”
Scogin and his former Norma Jean bandmates have been friends since they were pimply teenagers in the Atlanta suburb of Douglasville. The earliest incarnation of that band was noisy and definitely not hardcore-and they weren’t even Christian when they started. When friends from scene band Eyewitness invited them to church, something clicked, and the group accepted Jesus. Their new faith led them to heavy Christian bands like Zao and Training For Utopia. The group were reborn as Norma Jean, and once they had the Lord’s love in their hearts, things got rough.
“Listening to the [Chariot’s] music,” begins Davison. “It’s exactly what [Scogin] would like in a band. It’s him to the maximum.”
Not only was Josh Scogin lucky to survive the early tours with Norma Jean, but his curious departure from the group left surprisingly few scars, too. The singer abruptly quit in 2002, a mere two weeks before the release of their album, Bless The Martyr And Kiss The Child, and a major tour. Scogin and the group have always remained friends: This past spring, both bands completed a month-long tour, where Scogin would join them onstage every night, performing “Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste” from Bless The Martyr.
“There’s no really cool story about it,” Scogin says over the phone, having just rolled out of bed a little after 3 p.m. It’s unclear whether his groggy voice is from having just awoken, or if completely tired of talking about his split from Norma Jean. “There just comes a time in life when you’re just trying to do what you feel like you need to do,” he says. “I took a year or two break from music at the time, like I wanted to do something else. I literally just bummed around. I ended up marrying my wife, and we got to know each other. Then a couple years later, the Chariot formed. I just felt that my time being out [of the music scene] was kind of done and that I’d found what I was looking for.”
When the Chariot’s debut, Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing Nothing Is Dead And Nothing Is Bleeding, arrived in late 2004, it was equal parts rapture and rupture. The disc chucked rock’s ingrained song structures, dropped metal’s technical excesses and skipped hardcore’s tribal hooks, choosing to dismantle and completely restructure metalcore. Only sheer brutality remained: Uncontrolled feedback, random riffing, rib-rattling bass-drum bursts and Scogin’s gut-ripping roars. All mind you, in the name of the Lord.
Scogin is a spiritual leader who can be the strongest link in a circle of prayer. He also has a Margera-sized appetite for destruction, ready to take a ballistic firecracker in the face and leave rubble all over a venue. Some see his sudden departure on the eve of Norma Jean’s breakthrough as inscrutably enigmatic; others see it as a sign of spiritual integrity, and still others read it as both. But the side of him you’re mostly likely to see is never far from the front. Josh Scogin: irrepressible, cocksure wiseass, prone to hazardous activities (licking a well-worn flip-flop and engineering a five-man milk-gallon chug-off contest to name a scant few) but none guaranteed to cause eternal damnation.
Pick up AP 228 to what other completely innocent shenanigans Scorgin is up to.