Saosin play “Seven Years” at Chain Reaction

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This isn’t necessarily “news,” but it is pretty freaking awesome. Last week, Saosin made their triumphant return to Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California, with two performances in one night. You weren’t able to make it? Don’t worry – we weren’t either. Lucky for us, several people caught it all on camera. Below are a few of the better videos from the night: one of “Seven Years” and the other of “Lost Symphonies”. Enjoy!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting on: Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

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Throughout 2014, 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!

For decades, the post-hardcore genre bubbled beneath the veneer of mainstream consciousness. Bands like Fugazi, Texas is the Reason and Glassjaw all clamored for attention amidst the metal landscape. The early 2000s saw acts such as Thursday and The Used begin to blend their own brand of hardcore with a dash of pop sensibility, leaving the door open for a potential explosion if the right balance were to be found.

In the summer of 2004, Tampa, Florida hardcore band Underoath unexpectedly found that balance, striking a chord with such ferocity that its effects are still felt a decade later.

They’re Only Chasing Safety is not Underoath’s greatest achievement. In truth, every subsequent album the band would go on to record could be easily argued as superior. However, Chasing Safety may very likely be the most game-changing album the post-hardcore scene has encountered in the time since its release.

Previously known as an underground metal outfit, Underoath underwent an enormous overhaul after their 2002 album, The Changing of Times, that would leave drummer Aaron Gillespie as the band’s sole remaining original member. New recruits came in the form of guitarist James Smith, bassist Grant Brandell and vocalist Spencer Chamberlain, replacing the well-respected Dallas Taylor.

The new lineup, which also included holdovers guitarist Tim McTague and keyboardist/programmer Chris Dudley, decided to shed the band’s dark, heavy metal sound in favor of something much different. They’re Only Chasing Safety seemed to defy classification upon its release, eventually being heralded as the flagship album for the new screamo wave.

In place of sludgy breakdowns, the band incorporated melodic guitar parts that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a pop-punk album. Dallas Taylor’s spastic shrieks were replaced with Chamberlain’s much more palatable screams and cleans. Dudley’s synthesizers and keys finally took flight, fitting in perfectly with the band’s new direction – no longer a background distraction, but instead serving a necessary fill amidst McTague and Smith’s dueling guitars.

But perhaps the most ear-catching change was the introduction of Gillespie as a full-blown vocalist. The drummer had previously contributed some spoken word spots and had sung the chorus on “When the Sun Sleeps”, but on Chasing Safety, he would take the driver’s seat, effectively becoming the frontman of the band, despite his seat at the back of the stage, behind the drum kit.

Gillespie’s sugary-sweet choruses throughout the album still sound just as exciting as they did upon the album’s release. His refrain of “Your lungs are dead and they’ve both stopped breathing” on “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” and “Up against the wall, up against the wall” on “Reinventing Your Exit” still stand as benchmarks for clean vocalists everywhere. These songs, filled with their angst and confusion, became the unlikeliest of summer anthems.

Of course, for all of his vocal prowess, Gillespie’s parts are made even more special when heard against Chamberlain’s. The two names would become inseparable upon the release of Chasing Safety, serving as the golden standard for back-and-forth dual vocals in the hardcore scene. Their trade-off, heard within the opening minute of album opener “Young and Aspiring”, still resonates as a moment when the scene shifted.

For all of the glistening pop sheen that producer James Paul Wisner was able to inject into the album, Chasing Safety’s duality is what made the album so influential. For every sing-a-long moment, there’s punch of crunching guitar waiting just around the corner.

“It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” still sounds light years ahead of its time. Massive breakdowns and time signature changes stand side by side with Gillespie’s soaring vocals, Dudley’s dancy synthesizers and the band’s haunting refrain of “I’m drowning in my sleep”. This song about a premeditated car crash would not only serve as the building blocks for the band’s later work like “Writing on the Walls”, but would also function as the go-to track for any band wanting to emulate this new sound.

Underoath would take the Vans Warped Tour by storm in the summer of 2004, before headlining their own massive tours, being courted by a slew of major labels and essentially kickstarting a new brand of post-hardcore. It’s hard to find a heavy band in 2014 that doesn’t incorporate high-pitched clean vocals and include a keyboard player.

To say that Underoath were the sole purveyors of this new movement would mean discounting a number of bands that served as their contemporaries. Emery, Dead Poetic, Every Time I Die, Hawthorne Heights and others all forged new ground alongside the band. However, it’s impossible to overlook the impact that Underoath had as the most prominent band to come from that scene.

Not only did the band fit the mold for success with their look, accessible sound and strong musicianship, they set themselves apart with an eye-catching, wild, live performance and their overt Christian faith. Underoath ironically succeeded by being all things to all people – failing to fall completely into one grouping, thus defying complete categorization.

Looking for a metal band with a palatable sound? Wanting some upbeat songs with catchy choruses for summer drives? Searching for a positive band with a bit more edge and bite than those found in your local Christian bookstore? Underoath found an audience across a wide array of listeners, managing to invite them all in without alienating anyone. Even if you find the sound of Chasing Safety too “poppy” or “cheesy,” it’s hard to deny the uniting effect the album had amongst its assorted audience.

But perhaps what makes They’re Only Chasing Safety such an important album ten years after its release is that it is not the album that defines Underoath, nor did the band choose to ride that sound indefinitely.

Chasing Safety went gold, surpassing 500,000 units sold, in a scene where doing such a thing is nearly unheard of. While every major label made a pitch to the band to break them even bigger, the band instead re-signed with indie label Tooth and Nail. What followed was the band’s magnum opus, Define the Great Line – an album that would debut at number two on the Billboard 200 and move 98,000 copies in its first week, despite shedding nearly everything that made Chasing Safety such a smash in the first place.

Had the band continued to write the pop-emo anthems that lace Chasing Safety, perhaps their audience would have tired and moved on. Instead, Underoath refused to play ball with those who wanted to guide their sound and chose to experiment and push the boundaries of hardcore. Their final three albums, Define the Great Line, Lost in the Sound of Separation and Ø (Disambiguation) all stand as pillars of post-hardcore excellence.

Maybe without the breakthrough success of Chasing Safety the band never would have had the freedom or resources to expand their sound. Whatever the case, one thing is clear: They’re Only Chasing Safety is a landmark album – one that sparked the rise of one of the scene’s most revered acts and one that opened the floodgates for a massive wave of new bands (for better or for worse).

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.

Video interview with Saosin

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Derek Scancarelli of Alternative Press recently had the chance to chat with Saosin about their current reunion shows, what Translating the Name has meant to their individual careers, the band’s relationship with former vocalist Cover Reber, and if the band will record any new music with Anthony Green. Check out the interview below:

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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.

Saosin announce three more shows with Anthony Green

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Well, it’s official – Saosin will be playing a few more reunion shows in addition to their Skate and Surf Festival date. Check out a photo of the upcoming dates posted by Saosin guitarist Justin Shekoski below:

At the band’s Skate and Surf set, Saosin will be reunited with original vocalist Anthony Green and will be playing their first show since 2010. Green originally departed from the band in 2004.

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What do you think of the announcement? Do you expect more dates to be announced? A new album or EP? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting on: Dead Poetic – New Medicines

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Throughout 2014, 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!

New Medicines is one of those albums that seems to have a penchant for slipping through the cracks. The sophomore effort from Dayton, Ohio, post-hardcore act Dead Poetic recently turned 10 years old. There wasn’t much fanfare and you’re not likely to be overrun with reflective pieces on the album’s legacy.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – even upon the album’s release, it was quickly overshadowed amidst the screamo explosion of 2004. This is a shame, since the album was never meant to ride that wave anyway. New Medicines is different, and it might be one of the most criminally overlooked albums of the mid-aughts.

Dead Poetic’s roots are entangled in the hardcore scene, but the band never seemed content to play a one-trick pony. Their debut, Four Wall Blackmail, was a dark and raw affair that served as a primer for what was to come, drawing influence from the best emo sounds of the previous decade while dabbling in heavier elements.

While the likes of Thursday, Finch and others were also testing the waters of the emo/hardcore hybrid, Dead Poetic was about to branch even further.

You could call New Medicines a screamo record, but to do so would be to sell the album far short. There’s much more going beneath the surface. With this effort, Dead Poetic walked the line between technical post-hardcore and accessible alt rock.

Vocalist Brandon Rike hit his stride on New Medicines, and its evident from the opening lines of “Taste the Red Hands” – the effortless transition from scream-to-sing quickly became his signature. But this wasn’t screaming for the sake of screaming – those lines and words are saved for the most vital moments.

Instead, Rike makes you wait, often opting for a stratospheric high note to keep you on your toes. Perhaps his most famous moment, the chorus of the album’s title track, utilizes the most odd and curious melody as his voice fluctuates and swoops in an odd pattern as he sings, “New medicines should ease this pain / They’re the only ailment for it, all over again.”

Likewise, guitarist Zach Miles has a few tricks up his sleeve as well. Tracks like “Hostages” and “Bury the Difference” feature radio rock-like riffs while “Molotov” and “Glass in the Trees” feature a more technical touch. There’s no two songs alike on New Medicines, but they all fit the whole quite nicely. The band refuses to plant its foot in one genre, choosing to take the best parts of several to create something fresh.

But while the album was a breakthrough of sorts for the band and surely their most popular release, it never pushed the band to scene stardom like so many of their contemporaries experienced. Instead, New Medicines became lumped in with a wave of screamo records before having a chance to show itself different.

To make matters worse, the band’s Tooth and Nail label mates were all hitting their stride. That same year saw the rise of Underoath (They’re Only Chasing Safety), Emery (The Weak’s End), Showbread (No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical), He is Legend (I Am Hollywood) and others all cashing in with grand albums that benefited greatly from the moment.

Perhaps if New Medicines drops two years sooner, we remember the album differently. Instead, the band quickly abandoned their newly crafted sound (and Rike’s screams) in favor of more straightforward rock on 2006’s Vices before disbanding.

Even Vices was a worthy release in its own right, but the damage had already been done. A revolving door of supporting members and an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time sealed the band’s fate. Two of the scene’s most underrated musicians in Rike and Miles walked away, leaving perhaps even more music on the table and creating one of the biggest “What ifs” of the past decade.

New Medicines may not have gotten the shine and exposure it deserved, but it still remains a cult classic and a worthy high-water mark for one of the 2000’s most underrated hard rock bands. If you go back and listen now, you’ll find far more than mere nostalgia – you’ll find an album that still holds its own and sounds as fresh and engaging as it did 10 years ago.

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.

Hawthorne Heights stream “The Silence in Black and White” acoustic album

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It’s been nearly 10 years since Hawthorne Heights released their smash debut album The Silence in Black and White. To commemorate, the band is releasing an acoustic version of the album this spring. The good news is that you can listen to it right now! Stream the full album at Alt Press or check it out below:

The album will be released digitally on April 15, on CD on May 20 or on vinyl on July 1. You can check out preorder packages here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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 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