If there’s one thing about deathcore, it’s that the genre is fairly reliable. In sound, in fandom — when you encounter anything within the deathcore ether, you’re fully aware of it. That’s only a part of what’s kept Chelsea Grin alive in our minds and hearts after all these years. They started at the height of scene, but, for all intents and purposes, the current iteration of Chelsea Grin aren’t exactly the Chelsea Grin fans met back in 2007. Soon, it’ll become apparent just how good that is.
And there are quite a few reasons for that. Outside of the current lineup having none of the original members, Chelsea Grin saw their new double LP, Suffer In Hell / Suffer In Heaven, as an opportunity to go in a different direction and bask in the encouraging light of positivity. That’s not in a corny way, either. Positivity doesn’t have to be rose-colored — this is metal, after all — but a little tint goes a long way.
Even though their messages are pertinent to what’s going on now, many of the songs were in the works when the band were in the studio for 2018’s Eternal Nightmare. The height of the world’s collective torment COVID-19 caused them to get shelved for the moment, though they were never forgotten. In fact, Chelsea Grin came into the studio this time with about 30 songs in tow, including a bit of pandemic-produced material. That’s a hefty number to some, but according to guitarist and main songwriter Stephen Rutishauser, the excess was entirely necessary.
“We wanted to come back with a huge offering for people who had been waiting — some patiently, some less patiently — to make up for all that lost time,” Rutishauser says. “It felt like if we came out of a four-year lack-of-content time with a standard-length album, it would be selling short all the people who had been waiting. We wanted to make sure we delivered a lot because our fans have been super loyal, stuck around with us and deserve more.”
And more is certainly what they’re giving, even though both of the albums aren’t composed of all of what was originally brought to the table. Suffer In Hell is the first of the two to be released, and, despite its name, it’s not about hellish topics any more than any other Chelsea Grin album. In a similar vein, Suffer In Heaven isn’t all divine sunshine and clouds of gumdrops, either. The double albums aren’t meant to convey diametric opposites or contrasting contextual sides — really, they’re a pairing of corresponding titles meant to showcase nothing more than the badassery of their contents. This was done with intention, considering how agonizing the last few years have been. Fans needed something new to focus on, and Chelsea Grin took that task to heart.
“It’s not like one is more optimistic and one is more negative because the overall theme is that there’s suffering we all endure throughout life, no matter who you are or what walk of life you come from,” Rutishauser says. “We’re all going to experience it, but then there’s the emergence from it — the persevering and gaining strength from it, and realizing your own individual power to overcome.”
This morale boost doesn’t mean that Chelsea Grin have traded the fierceness of their deathcore for flowery hippie pop, since each track still pummels the head like a crowd kill. Arrangements and approaches are a little different — even the album art is a deviation from their usual visual output. After being gone for what felt like an eternity, the whole band adamantly wanted to show how, in many ways, the Suffer pair isn’t like any other album in their discography. Rutishauser is excited about how people have already taken notice, particularly thanks to the painting-esque artwork donning the cover. It’s a dead giveaway that fans are recognizing how the time spent away was more like a butterfly leaving its chrysalis than a departure from the spotlight, which he considers a definite victory. “Maybe they’ll get some idea that the rest of the album is going to be different because it all is,” he says.
Yet, Chelsea Grin still want to bring absolute chaos, but for the ears. Rutishauser notes the title track (which happens to close out Suffer In Hell) as being a potent number that he’s looking forward to playing live because it’s essentially a brutal breakdown that lasts for two minutes. They even included a throwback to one of the biggest songs from their last album by incorporating a recreation of “Hostage,” though you’ll have to listen to the record to see which one it is.
What he’s most excited to play, though, is a song written in dedication to Diego Farias, a dear friend and founding member of the band Volumes who passed away in 2020. Rutishauser sought for “Sing to the Grave” to be written in the same style as Farias’ songwriting to honor him, and he certainly did, with an added dash of their special finesse. It’s the most emotional song in their catalog — centered on losing a friend and wishing you could bring them back — but instrumentally, it melds both the heaviness of Chelsea Grin with the proggy, djent grooviness of Volumes. It’s both energetic and sad, though it’s sure to garner a huge crowd reaction.
But overall, the message the band want to convey is that all the whispers and murmurs as to what’s been going on with them over the last four years likely aren’t what their fans think it is. Sure, they’ve had their ups and downs throughout the 15-year span of their career, but really, Chelsea Grin just want to guarantee that fans see their maturation. They understood the assignment, taking the time off to figure out how they want to be known for the next 15 years. Part of that comes with acknowledging how these drastic times call for less drastic measures, taking the typical darkness of the genre and subtracting some of the aggression and misery to make more compelling music.
Undoubtedly, Suffer In Heaven is just as hard-hitting as In Hell. The band took this double release seriously, and they want to make sure every aspect of it is perfect, from the specific sequencing down to crafting the perfect lineup for whenever they’re able to tour in support of it. This isn’t just another album to them, and it’s not the usual Chelsea Grin business fans have grown to enjoyably expect.
“This is a step further in our career — not just on the business front, but for us as people emotionally,” Rutishauser professes. “Every aspect of this needs to convey that this is a new era. We’re still kicking.”