Reflecting On: Chiodos – Bone Palace Ballet

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.

You can buy “Bone Palace Ballet” on iTunes.

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_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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Craig Owens Takes the Stage as badXchannels

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The small stage at the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis looks slightly bigger than normal as Craig Owens walks into the spotlight. On this evening, the proclaimed frontman of post-hardcore fame is not flanked by flailing guitarists or even a drummer. Unaccompanied, Owens takes the stage for the first time as badXchannels, his latest solo persona.

It’s the night before the release of WHYDFML, his R&B influenced debut EP, and it’s difficult to gauge expectations. Owens has rarely failed to produce quality music, regardless of those surrounding him, yet this particular endeavor seems like a risk. Furthermore, with only a small collection of badXchannels songs, is there enough material to make the set pop?

Marina City

Marina City

Before we find out, the night kicks off with Marina City, an unsigned pop rock act from Chicago that finds themselves on the cusp of a breakthrough. Their set is extremely tight for an opener, with vocalist Ryan Argast hitting a groove early on and getting the crowd involved. Before the band finishes, they climb down to the floor for a campfire-ish acoustic number, encircled by a crowd that seems happy to sing along.

Following an energetic set from Marina City comes Colours, an act newly signed to Victory Records. The duo, comprised of Kyle Tamo and Morgan Alley, feels like a true primer for badXchannels – deep bass and crisp synthesizers fill the room as Colours unleashes their own brand of smooth R&B pop. Tamo captures the sultry feel of his songs with his stage presence as he patiently delivers hooky payoff on tracks like “Monster” and “Gone”.

Once the music dies down and the stage is stripped of neon lights and fog, it feels oddly barren. Aside from a small table at the back of the stage for an accompanying DJ, the open space belongs to Owens, who takes the stage devoid of the ski mask he donned for press photos and his first badXchannels music video. Tonight, he’s just a man in a hoodie who has some songs to share.

Gone is the frantic frontman of bands like Chiodos and D.R.U.G.S. – here, Craig Owens is confident and loose during his songs and humble and grateful between takes. This opening night performance feels intimate and personal.

badXchannels

badXchannels

It’s true – the set is short. Owens performs the five songs from WHYDFML with scattered thoughts shared in between. Each track feels vibrant and full of potential in a live setting, particularly the dark, simmering “You Know I Will” which finds Owens crooning, “I mix my vices with vice / It makes the devil on my shoulder seem nice / She’s playing princess, no lie / I won’t stop her, you can save it, I tried”.

True to his word, these new songs share a striking resemblance to the sinful R&B emissions of The Weeknd, both in tone and message. From the quirky beat and syrupy delivery of “Same Thing Every Day” to the delicate movements of “Complicated”, Owens sounds on point. It’s a complete departure from anything he’s ever done, but at this moment in time, it sounds like the perfect move.

From the stage, Owens shares that he considered stepping away from performance to focus on producing, but just couldn’t seem to give up singing. badXchannels clearly offers him that opportunity in an unexpected form and WHYDFML is a pleasant surprise from front to back.

Before ending his set, Owens’ DJ throws on “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper, leading Owens to climb down into the crowd. “Let’s jump!” he shouts as those in attendance join in on the celebration. This new iteration of Craig Owens is up close and personal for now. With the right moves, badXchannels could find its way to bigger stages in the very near future.

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.

Goodbye, Chiodos; Hello, badXchannels

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If you found difficulty expressing shock at last week’s news of Chiodos’ demise, you’re not alone. Fans of the Michigan post-hardcore act made peace with the band’s dissolution over a year ago as, one-by-one, the members began stepping away from the wreckage. Craig Owens’ recent statement hardly raised an eyebrow.

In truth, Chiodos’ supposed resurrection with 2014’s Devil felt over before it ever began. Only a few months after the album’s release, bassist Matt Goddard and drummer Derrick Frost parted ways, followed shortly by new guitarist Thomas Erak. An album that felt half-hearted to begin with never gained steam, and instead of the much-anticipated renaissance of one of the scene’s most exciting bands, Chiodos departed with a sigh.

Now, we’re presented with badXchannels, Owens’ latest solo project. One of the most prolific frontmen in recent memory, Owens has shown no shortage in range over the years. From the delicate delivery of Cinematic Sunrise and With Love, his 2009 solo EP, to the raging chaos of Chiodos and D.R.U.G.S., Owens has kept his nose to the grindstone, even making an appearance on last year’s Dr. Dre album, Compton, and a recent track from Kuniva.

To go along with his signature vocal delivery, Owens also possesses a stage presence and confidence that has kept him at the center of the scene’s attention, no matter the genre. His track record would lead you to believe that badXchannels will undoubtedly succeed, even if only to keep his own brand alive and well. This latest iteration of Owens the artist finds him shirtless and veiled by a black ski mask. It’s an odd choice of presentation, but Craig has always had a flair for the dramatic.

His first single, “I. One Car Funeral” finds Owens providing a smoother vocal delivery than we’re accustomed to, atop a pulsing beat. Before deciding whether badXchannels is worthy, quirky cousin to The Weeknd, we’ll need to hear more. For now, it’s an interesting transformation with some obvious potential.

The biggest question leading up to the release of WHYDFML on November 18 is this: even if badXchannels is a hit, will it last? Craig Owens has now parted ways with Chiodos twice, failed to follow up on the fan-adored Cinematic Sunrise, and walked away from projects like D.R.U.G.S., Isles and Glaciers, and even first own solo endeavor after just one release. At this point, many fans of Craig Owens simply want stability.

Owens would likely counter with points about his need for unrestricted creative expression and having no desire to be confined to one box (or band, for that matter). That’s a fair response for any artist. However, at some point, history will decide how the music of Craig Owens is remembered, and it’s wholly possible that the clutter may cloud our memories.

Maybe badXchannels will be a massive success and be the defining moment of Owens’ career. Maybe his best music is still to come. Maybe November 18 will provide more clarity about Owens’ artistic trajectory. Maybe it will provide more questions.

We’re only a few short weeks from finding out.

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.

Reflecting On: Chiodos – All’s Well That Ends Well

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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.

All's_Well_That_Ends_Well_front_cover

You can buy All’s Well That Ends Well on iTunes.

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_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.

Isles & Glaciers to Release “The Hearts of Lonely People (Remixes)” on November 11

isles_and_glaciers

For a minute there, it looked like we might be getting an Isles & Glaciers reunion. Friday afternoon, the band’s official twitter account sent out an ambiguous tweet that was later clarified by Equal Vision Records.

On November 11, the label release a new remixed version of the band’s 2010 EP called The Hearts of Lonely People (Remixes). The release will be available on vinyl, CD and digitally with preorders going up in mid-October. Check out the artwork and tracklist below:

hearts_of_lonely_people

1. Kings and Chandeliers II (Brian Southall Remix)
2. Hills Like White Elephants (Brian Southall Remix)
3. Clush (Knights Remix)
4. Empty Sighs & Wine (Citizun Remix)
5. Oceans For Backyards II (Brian Southall Remix)
6. Viola Lion (dr00gs Remix) 7. Cemetery Weather (Piano Version ft. Kara Dupuy)

What do you think the chances are of an Isles & Glaciers reunion in the future? Slim to none? Let us know your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

A Day to Remember announce fall tour with Bring Me the Horizon and Chiodos

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A Day to Remember are going to be hitting the road this fall with Bring Me the Horizon and Chiodos. Yep, you read that correctly. The tour will kick off on September 4th in Philadelphia. VIP tour packages are currently on sale here and general tickets go on sale this Friday.

Check out the tour dates and a short video below:

adtr_tour

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Chiodos and blessthefall to co-headline summer tour

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Chiodos and blessthefall will be hitting the road this summer on a co-headlining tour supported by I Killed the Prom Queen and Capture the Crown. The trek has been titled the Crowd Surf America Tour. Check out the dates below:

July 25 – Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond
July 26 – Albuquerque, MN – Sunshine Theater
July 27 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
July 29 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
July 30 – Reno, NV – Knitting Factory
July 31 – Las Vegas, NV – Hard Rock
August 1 – Ventura, CA – Ventura Theater
August 2 – Pomona, CA – Glasshouse
August 3 – Pomona, CA – Glasshouse
August 4 – Tucson, AZ – The Rock
August 6 – Tulsa, OK – Cains
August 7 – Odessa, TX – Far West Event Center
August 8 – Austin, TX – ACL Live @ The Moody Theater
August 9 – Corpus Christi, TX – Concrete Street Pavilion
August 11 – Mobile, AL – Soul Kitchen
August 12 – Birmingham, AL – Zydeco
August 13 – Knoxville, TN – The International
August 14 – Wilmington, NC – Ziggy’s By The Sea
August 15 – Winston Salem, NC – Ziggy’s
August 16 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
August 17 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland
August 19 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance Theater
August 20 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground
August 21 – Hartford, CT – Webster
August 22 –Rochester, NY – Water Street Music Hall
August 23 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater
August 26 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts
August 27 – Bloomington, IL – Castle Theatre
August 28 – Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
August 29 – Joliet, IL – Mojoes
August 30 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note Festivals
September 13 – Janesville, WI – WJJO Festival
September 14 – Sacramento, CA – Aftershock Festival
September 20 – Kitchener, ON – Koi Music Fest

Pre-sale tickets are now available and can be purchased here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Vinyl Spotlight: Chiodos – R2Me2 / Let Me Get You a Towel

chiodos_cover

Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

Next up on our list of Record Store Day 2014 releases is a Chiodos 7-inch featuring two b-sides from their recent full length album, Devil. That album marked the return of estranged frontman Craig Owens and the band’s first full-length release in four years. Despite the hit-or-miss feel of Devil, this special release was an enticing item that featured two unreleased songs.

Packaging and Presentation 

Truly, the packaging of the album is pretty minimal. The album artwork, which featured an initially odd image, is made clear upon hearing the lyrics of “R2Me2”. A track about not being in it for the money obviously inspired the burning bills on the cover. There’s no insert, but the release did come with a digital download card for both tracks.

The green vinyl is actually pretty awesome (and also unexpected). The lime green color is extremely catching to the eye and is a tad translucent, giving it an extra appeal. The only downside is the black-and-white labels on the vinyl itself. A cool contrasting color on the labels could have added some extra pop to the eye.

Sound and Quality 

As with the Circa Survive/Sunny Day Real Estate split, the real question about this release is how the songs themselves sound. “R2Me2” is the clear winner here – an upbeat track about the band’s dismissiveness of money and fame is marked with an intense guitar solo near the end of the song that rivals many moments on Devil. Owens’ vocals are spot-on throughout. Given the number of songs on Devil that felt out of place, it’s rather odd that this song didn’t make the cut.

On the other hand, “Let Me Get You a Towel” is a bit of a letdown. The song sounds very demo-ish and doesn’t have the catchiness of “R2Me2”. It’s a rather poppy track that feels somewhat unfinished and lacks quite a bit of depth. This lack of quality shows itself on the vinyl release, making the listening experience disappointing.

All in all, this was a fun Record Store Day item to pick up, and with a pretty low price tag, there wasn’t any reason not to snag it. However, only hardcore fans of the band will likely want to seek this out. If you find it on the shelf at your local record store, go ahead and grab it, but don’t drop massive amounts of money for a copy on eBay or elsewhere.

chiodos_vinyl

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.

Review: Chiodos – Devil

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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.

Chiodos stream “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades”

chiodos_2014

Another day, another new Chiodos song is available for your listening pleasure. The band is just over a week away from the release of their new album DEVIL and has dropped another new track. Check out “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades” below:

If you haven’t preordered DEVIL, there’s still time. You can get the album on iTunes.

What has been your favorite song released from DEVIL so far? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck