Review: Chiodos – Devil

chiodos_2014

You know the story by now. In one of the most unlikely of reunions, estranged frontman Craig Owens shockingly returned to screamo giants Chiodos in 2012. Considering Owens’ celebrity status in the scene and Chiodos’ standing as one post-hardcore’s pillars, the announcement was filled with excitement, disbelief and bewilderment.

Now, nearly two years after the parties reunited, we’ve been delivered with the long-anticipated follow-up in the form of Devil. At first glance, this appears very much like the Chiodos we all knew – the return of Owens’ wailing vocals, the long, nonsensical song titles, the haunting piano intro and plenty of theatrics.

However, upon digging a little deeper, it’s clear that the devil is truly in the details.

The members of Chiodos have made clear that Devil is not to be mistaken as a true follow-up to 2007’s Bone Palace Ballet, which is certainly fair enough given the amount of time that has passed. However, this new collection of songs ranges widely from the emo-infused hardcore the band is known for to alt rock to straight-out pop.

In the case of some albums in this scene, diversity is a blessing. However, if you try too hard to cater to everyone, you can sometimes end up alienating all.

Before we throw Devil under the bus, it deserves to be said that there are some great songs on this album. “Ole Fishlips is Dead” and “Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels” sound like matured songs from the band’s debut, All’s Well That Ends Well. Fast-paced guitar riffs, evocative keys, chunky breakdowns and Owens’ signature shrieking all feel like the best kind of throwback.

The band even expands their repertoire on tracks like “Looking for a Tornado”, utilizing a beautiful acoustic intro before shifting into an upbeat, but not frantic, pace that includes a chillingly powerful chorus. This controlled kind of chaos is just what the doctor ordered, offering a bridge between the old Chiodos sound and punishingly heavy tracks like “Behvis Bullock”.

It’s in moments like this and “I’m Awkward & Unusual” that the band sounds better than ever. So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the utilization of new tricks doesn’t end there. “3 AM” is a pop rock song that you could easily imagine Travis Clark singing on an early We Are the Kings album. “Under Your Halo” sounds like a Cinematic Sunrise b-side crossed with a one of the more tranquil moments from The Black Parade. “Duct Tape” appears to be a stowaway from Owens’ previous band D.R.U.G.S. that somehow made its way onto the tracklist.

You could possibly argue the merit of these songs individually, but they do nothing but disrupt the flow of the album and confuse the listener. These awkward transitions don’t serve to expand Devil sonically, they instead create a frustratingly disjointed listen. Most listeners will find it beneficial to skip around the album, picking and choosing their own Devil playlist.

This trip-up is a surprise. Chiodos has a track record of making diverse records – Bone Palace Ballet features poppy (“Lexington”), heavy (“The Undertaker’s Thirst For Revenge is Unquenchable”) and acoustic (“Intensity in Ten Cities”) tracks that all play a role in the larger whole without creating a hiccup. Devil is a grab bag.

So was it worth the wait? Probably. Even though the album falters as a whole, the individual standouts are enough of a taste to satiate longtime fans. Former Fall of Troy vocalist/guitarist Thomas Erak fills the riff hole left by Justin Hale quite well, while Owens and keyboardist Bradley Bell combine to provide us with plenty of the spooky, melodic moments that help set Chiodos apart.

Devil is a confusing reimagining of Chiodos, to be sure. However, the best moments are worth cherishing, even when they battle against the peculiar ones. If nothing else, Devil leaves the door wide open for the future of Chiodos – which direction the band decides to choose should keep the intrigue alive.

3/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. My personal favorite so far has been “Looking for a Tornado.” http://smarturl.it/ChiodosTornadoVideo

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