By the fall of 2007, Chiodos had established themselves as one of the premiere post-hardcore bands on the planet. The band’s sophomore album, Bone Palace Ballet, fully harnessed the potential displayed on their debut and landed at #5 on the Billboard 200, transitioning the band from lively up-and-comers to a full-fledged headlining rock act.
Unfortunately for Chiodos, intervening years have hijacked the band’s narrative. Ensuing drama, inner turmoil, member turnover, news headlines, and the band’s own mystique have shadowed much of the music, namely the brilliance of Bone Palace Ballet. There’s an argument to made that it’s one of the most criminally underrated albums in scene history.
Chiodos’ debut, All’s Well That Ends Well, was a firecracker of raw energy that put the band’s name on the tip of everyone’s tongue. For their follow-up, the band channeled that passion into a more controlled and polished body of work while expanding on their sound in exciting new ways. It’s still easy to hear the band’s signature chaos across ripping guitar riffs from Jason Hale and manic keyboard lines from Bradley Bell, but several new tricks provided a world of new possibilities.
Just under a year after My Chemical Romance dropped their smash rock opera The Black Parade, Chiodos followed suit with their own dramatic display, capitalizing on frontman Craig Owens’ theatrical performance. Bone Palace Ballet is chock full of rich, over-the-top melody and drama, highly inspired by poems from Charles Bukowski and others. On All’s Well, Owens made a name for himself with a wild, spastic delivery, and while his screams carry even more power on Ballet, his purposefully over-dramatic vocal inflections would become his calling card.
Yet it would have been possible for all of this to fall flat if not for the swirl of unexpected sounds underneath. Blended into the mix were full orchestral arrangements that somehow made sense alongside crashing guitars and drums. A string section carries the first 30 seconds of “Life is a Perception of Your Own Reality” before Owens crashes through the door with, “I’d like to take this time to detach my jaw”. A myriad of horns blast along with the chorus of “Lexington. (Joey Pea-Pot with a Monkeyface)”.
Think on this: Chiodos juxtaposed ragtime pop with their own personal brand of convulsive post-hardcore and the resulting product was a smashing success. How many bands since have attempted to blend in these kinds of theatrics and come anywhere close to something as powerful as “Is it Progression if a Cannibal Uses a Fork?” The chances taken on Bone Palace Ballet allowed the band to explore new territory without it ever feeling like a jump of the proverbial shark.
Credit producer Casey Bates with helping the band find balance. At times on Ballet, it feels as if even one more additional instrument could bring a whole song crashing down. Still, for all of the fully-loaded tracks on the album, Chiodos still finds time to deliver some of their softest (“A Letter from Janelle”, “Intensity in Ten Cities”) and heaviest (“Teeth the Size of Piano Keys”, “The Undertaker’s Thirst for Revenge is Unquenchable”) songs. By the time Owens croons, “All the world’s a stage / I existed because I dreamed and, well, I dream no more” near the albums somber conclusion, it feels as though you’ve experienced every sound and mood a heavy rock album could hope to offer.
With Chiodos now decidedly disbanded, it feels like the conversation around the band focuses on squandered potential. I’d argue otherwise. Certainly, fans of the band would love to have gotten another album or two before they said farewell, but the quality of the output across their four albums is certainly undeniable. In fact, I’d hear an argument for any of the four releases as Chiodos’ best.
At the end of the day, though, Bone Palace Ballet stands as a beacon of the best parts of Chiodos – chaotic, melodramatic, fantastical. It’s still a spectacle to behold 10 years later.
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.