Written by: TL on 01/04/2014 17:23:00

Back in the 2005 heyday of myspace, when stripey haired scenesters like my younger self were in an armsrace over who could be fan of the craziest new post-hardcore bands, Chiodos emerged to thrive on our desires, and by fusing classical piano keys with spazzed out guitar figures, frantic breakdowns and bizarre song titles, the band earned recognition with two albums that these days sound somewhat past their expiration date if you ask me. In a genre ripe with high-pitched crooners of varying ability, the band had its own nails-on-chalkboard frontman in Craig Owens, but while his ability to draw headlines early on probably boosted the band's fame, things eventually turned sour, prompting the 09 exits of him and drummer Derrick Frost and their substitutions in form of then-Yesterdays Rising singer Brandon Bolmer and former Scary Kids Scaring Kids drummer Tanner Wayne.

If the world outside of the post-hardcore scene had taken much interest in Chiodos, they would probably have agreed with me that "Illuminaudio" - the album that particular line-up produced alongside big-name producer Machine - is by far the best record the Chiodos moniker has been responsible for to date. Yet the new album "Devil" - released today - is the direct result of Owens and Frost being back in the fold following the ousting of Bolmer and Wayne, and as the hype goes this return to the original line-up is supposed to have you all excited. Or 'almost original' that is, since original lead guitarist Jason Hale has also been replaced by Thomas Erak of The Fall Of Troy-fame.

With the substitutions thus mapped out, "Devil" bids us welcome with the band's trademark use of classical piano, soon opening up into ominous guitar tremolo that would feel borrowed from black metal if it wasn't for Frost's more mid-weight drumming style. Owens wails ever desperately on top of equal measures of sampled strings and actual instruments, but while I enjoy the NFL reference of "We're Talking About Practice", both it and the following "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" sounds like an undecided midpoint between the "Illuminaudio" era and Owens' work with his one-record "super-group" D.R.U.G.S. Not as heavy and immersive as the former and without the cheeky trend-sensibility of the latter, it falls upon a hysterical Alesana-style breakdown in the end of the latter song to bring home the opening, which is a bit of a tall order in my point of view.

Alesana, in fact, is perhaps the best point of reference as things get a mellower build-up in "Why The Munsters Matter", a song that makes for an early highlight of sorts, courtesy of the nice off-set the chorus gets when Owens' grabs attention pleading "What the hell are we here for?!". The breakdown here is again near-comical, like a gory horror-film murder, and you begin to feel that the believability the band discovered on "Illuminaudio" has again been pawned in for a more gimmicky feel. Cue the complete curve-ball pop-punk melodies of "3 AM", which sounds as surprising and out of place as Broadway's spectacular "Gentlemen's Brawl" failure, yet somehow manages to feel like a compelling outcast at a point where the Owens-lead Chiodos' antics were otherwise starting to already feel tiresome.

Unfortunately the album plunges right back into the deep end with Erak's guitar, Bell's keys and Owens' lyrics exchanging ironic stances and theatrical poses like overplaying actors in a shallow play. "Duct Tape" is a yawner of a bass-heavy ballad with zero surprises, while the chaotic screaming of "Behvis Bullock" makes for a poor excuse for a verse in between its otherwise passable chorus hooks, but the heavy passages of songs like it and "Expensive Conversations In Cheap Motels" are at least sure to get the kids at Warped Tour moshing. Trailing towards the end "I'm Awkward And Unusual" fails to come up with a satisfying resolution to an otherwise okay verse, while "Under Your Halo" joins "3 AM" with more out-of-place, pop-rock softness.

"I swear I'm different now" are the last words uttered by Owens as the album trails off, yet while I grant him that his vocal acrobatics have gotten more flexible, his constantly over-dramatic inflections are still about as inviting to listen to as that squealing kindergarten excursion on your morning commute, and with his return Chiodos are back to sounding like a band that have trouble arranging three musical ideas in a meaningful progression. So pardon me while I reminisce about the short stint with Wayne and Bolmer, and wonder if it was either one of them, or perhaps just the disciplined guidance of Machine, that had the troops organised properly for at least a short while in Chiodos' prolonged, haphazard existence.


Download: Why The Munsters Matter, 3 AM, Expensive Conversations In Cheap Motels
For The Fans Of: D.R.U.G.S, Alesana, Pierce The Veil, Escape The Fate

Release date 01.04.2014
Razor & Tie

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