During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!
Frenetic. Chaotic. Wild. Furious. Unapologetic.
There is a very specific set of terms that describe the sonic energy found on All’s Well That Ends Well, the debut album from Chiodos. Not only did the record set a foundation for the progressive post-hardcore band to grow from, it landed a powerful blow to the cheek of a stagnant screamo scene in the process.
Cutting their teeth at a local music venue in Flint, Michigan, Chiodos wore their influences on their sleeve on their debut. The unbridled energy of bands like Glassjaw and Thursday slams hard against fleeting pop sensibilities and unnerving keyboards and synthesizers. All’s Well That Ends Well is somewhat of a time capsule, perfectly capturing the sound of its age.
Aside from its raw vigor and evocative theatrics, the album may best be known as the coming out party for Craig Owens – a relatively unknown vocalist who would be considered a full-fledged rock star by the end of the album’s cycle. Untrained and unrestrained, Owens struts across the album’s 13 tracks with abandon, unleashing piercing screams and whispery spoken word vocals, sometimes within the same line. His opening shrieks of, “This spring of love resembles the uncertain glory of an April day” on “All Nereids Beware” still stands as one of the scene’s most startling introductions.
Much like Owens’ neurotic vocal spillage, the band transitions on a moment’s notice from shredding post-hardcore riffs to hauntingly gentle piano passages. “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined” tackles all five stages of grief, both sonically and lyrically, in under four minutes.
The pace of the record is fast, but it’s worth remembering just how spacey and ambient it felt in 2005 when juxtaposed with some of the band’s peers. It’s easy to capture cheap energy. It’s something more to add odd, unfamiliar elements to the mix to capture real emotion without completely abandoning genre expectations. All’s Well That Ends Well is best described as a post-hardcore record, but it felt like something completely new while still maintaining an air of familiarity.
We’d heard a breakdown, but when padded with Bradley Bell’s manic keyboard lines, All’s Well’s heavy parts went down easy. We’d heard soaring vocals atop gritty guitar riffs, but Owens’ heart-on-his-sleeve pleading made it less a performance and more a desperate cry for help. His anger, despair and utter defeat rang out like a painful tolling bell, even when he resorted to cliché.
“Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek” served as a case study track for the band’s boundaries, but also became the blueprint for the next generation of in-betweeners. A delicate beginning find’s Owens suggesting, “Let’s just stop, drop everything / Forget each other’s names and just walk away” before the guitars kick in with fury. When he later cries, “This is probably the best, not to mention the worst, idea that I have ever had”, you can feel the internal conflict. Though infectious as hell, the band never lets the song slip into overly accessible territory.
Three years prior, The Used tested these same waters with their debut, but chose instead to let their appetite for catchy hooks tip the scales. That album was a gateway drug for many, but Chiodos appeared content to take only a quick hit, never fully indulging in crossover potential. The opening hardcore riffs of “We’re Gonna Have Us a Champagne Jam”, coupled with Owens’ piercing howl, act as a firm refusal to cater to emo pop fans that wandered in the room on accident.
Chiodos would tighten ship with subsequent releases, but did the band forsake the raw energy that made their debut such a smash? Bone Palace Ballet leaned toward full-on rock opera while Illuminaudio toed the line of progressive radio rock. Devil is an animal all its own, combining every element found in the Chiodos training manual.
There’s certainly not a bad apple in the bunch, but All’s Well That Ends Well seems to stand the test of time. Even with its rough edges and uneven delivery, it still packs a bite. While the band may never again harness the youthful fight and anger that made this debut such a classic, they’ve slowly been perfecting their craft and cementing themselves as post-hardcore giants. If the end is in sight, it’s certainly an ending worth shouting about.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel 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.