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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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”

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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

Chiodos stream new song titled “Under Your Halo”

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Ready for another new song from Chiodos? The guys have released a new track titled “Under Your Halo” from their upcoming album DEVIL. You can read full details at USA Today and listen to the song below:

DEVIL is set to release on April 1 and you can preorder the album on iTunes.

“Under Your Halo” stands in stark contrast to some of the other songs released from DEVIL thus far. How is the album shaping up? Tell us your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Chiodos stream new song “Behvis Bullock”

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Chiodos are streaming another new track, this one titled “Behvis Bullock” from their upcoming album DEVIL. This is the fourth song thus far to be released from the new album. Check it out below:

DEVIL releases on April 1. What’s your favorite song released so far? Will the new album hold up to the band’s past work? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Chiodos stream “Why the Munsters Matter”, announce tour

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*Updated

Chiodos have released a new video for their song  “Why the Munsters Matter”, which can be viewed below. The track is from their upcoming album DEVIL, set to be released on April 1.

You can currently buy the new song and preorder the album on iTunes.

Additionally, the band has announced that they will be touring this spring alongside Emarosa, Hands Like Houses and Our Last Night. You can view the dates below.

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You can view more exclusive information about DEVIL and the upcoming tour over at AbsolutePunk.net.

What are your thoughts on the two new songs thus far? Does it measure up to the band’s past work? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Chiodos to release DEVIL on April 1

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Chiodos has announced that they will release DEVIL, their highly anticipated fourth studio album, on April 1 through drk/lght records, an imprint of Razor & Tie. The band has also released the cover art for the album and the track list, which can be viewed below:

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1. U.G. Introduction
2. We’re Talking About Practice
3. Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now
4. Why The Munsters Matter
5. 3 AM
6. Sunny Days & Hand Grenades
7. Duct Tape
8. Behvis Bullock
9. Looking For A Tornado
10. Expensive Conversations In Cheap Motels
11. I’m Awkward & Unusual
12. Under Your Halo
13. I Am Everything That’s Normal

Additionally, you can hear the first song from the album, “Ole Fishlips is Dead Now” over at Alt Press.

What are your thoughts on the new song? Will DEVIL measure up to the band’s previous work? Let us know your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck