Released: Apr 1, 2014
Label: Razor & Tie
Number Of Tracks: 13
While Chiodos have reunited with their original vocalist and drummer, their musical direction is moving forward towards a more sophisticated sound (or pretentious, however you'd like to describe it).
DevilFeatured review by: UG Team, on april 07, 2014 2 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: It was a very rocky time several years ago when Chiodos announced they had parted ways (probably more along the lines of "kicked out") with their original frontman Craig Owens, and fans were unsure if the post-hardcore band would be releasing anything. Fortunately for them, the band would go on to release their third album, "Illuminaudio," with their second frontman, Brandon Bolmer - and with some awesome guitar work featured on the album, it was a pleasing release and a good way to show that a "post-Owens" Chiodos would still be a good band. A couple years later, Bolmer would end up leaving, and once again, fans would agonize over the future of Chiodos, but then the band announced something unexpected: Owens would be back! After reuniting with the original frontman and a proper amount of touring, they also announced that a fourth album was in the works, and now with the result of that fourth album, it seems to show that both the band and Owens have come a long way from where they last left off.
It's not hard to argue that "Devil" is the most mature-sounding Chiodos album in their discography. Deciding to double-down (maybe even so much as triple-down) on the classical instrument usage that was present in "Illuminaudio," Chiodos starts right off the bat with a high-brow composition of piano and violins in "U.G. Introduction," and throughout most of the songs on the album, there's always a presence of piano and/or strings. This penchant for orchestral elements works well for the post-hardcore/metalcore songs on the album: it gives "We're Talking About Practice" and "Sunny Days & Hand Grenades" a bit of a goth flavor to it, and the serene orchestral melodies in the verses of "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" and "Why the Munsters Matter" provide a nice contrast to the heavy choruses and breakdowns. However, these elements are best in the electric ballad "Duct Tape," the acoustic-imbued "Looking for a Tornado" and the final song "I Am Everything That's Normal," with the innate ability of strings to enhance emotion working in perfect complement to Craig Owens' sensitive tone of vocals on these songs. While the symphonic elements are a dominant player, they don't oversaturate the album, and songs like "Behvis Bullock" and "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels" providing a hearty dose of ferocious metalcore - and though the guitar-work on "Devil" isn't as frantic as it was on "Illuminaudio," you'll find nice guitar solos and complex lead guitar-lines in "Why the Munsters Matter," "Sunny Days & Hand Grenades," "Looking for a Tornado" and "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels." With the main aesthetic of the album being dark, heavy and neo-classical, the alternative-punk-styled song "I'm Awkward & Unusual" and the happy pop-punk songs "3 AM" and "Under Your Halo" break away from that aesthetic, and while these songs aren't bad, they seem to water down the intense vibe of the album with a different flavor that's a bit conflicting. // 8
Lyrics: Frontman Craig Owens had talked about the album "Devil" got its name based on Owens' interpretation of the word; having it being applied in a more more situational and metaphorical context than the typical and literal context of a pitchfork-wielding devil. Mostly, this comes in the form of regret over failed relationships- like in "3 AM," "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" and "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Hotels" - and inner struggles, like in "Looking for a Tornado" and "I'm Awkward & Unusual." The word "devil" appears in Owens lyrics a number of times in the album, as well as the synonymic term "demon" - more specifically, the spoken phrase "let go of your demons" in "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" seems to share a link with the line "I can chase away those demons" in "Duct Tape." Songs like "Looking for a Tornado" bear the more eloquent lyrics, as well as the catchy chorus "Devil, don't ever let me go/I've been looking for a tornado; chaos is something I've been missing," whereas the pop-punk songs "3 AM" and "Under Your Halo" bear much more simplistic lyrics - though the worst lyric of the album goes to "Duct Tape," with the facepalm-worthy "Just between you and me, yeah we got place to be/Dressed up so scary like it's Halloween." // 6
Overall Impression: Despite Chiodos' lineup being shaky for the past several years, their discography's quality is stable and strong, and "Devil" is another great addition to that group of albums. It makes a substantial jump from their last album, "Illuminaudio," but the transition between the two albums and their styles feels natural and smooth rather than drastic and estranged. The main aesthetic that Chiodos cultivates for this album is well-executed, though the three punk songs on the album may have been better off being released on a separate EP rather than included in this album to try and contrast the dominant darkness that the majority of the album portrays. But all in all, every song on the album is worth it. // 8
Vash_15, on april 08, 2014 4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: Chiodos is a band we've all probably heard of by now. Whether you listen to them or not, the complicated network of their line-up changes and lead singer drama have most certainly reached the ears of any fan of the genre, even if their music hasn't. But to all who've heard their tunes, you probably know that this is the band's first release in 4 years, and first to feature once-former lead singer Craig Owens since 2007's "Bone Palace Ballet." So you might be wondering what numerous side bands, years of individual growth, and the addition of The Fall Of Troy frontman Thomas Erak on lead guitar has done for the band's sound. The answer? Not a thing.
That's right. Listeners of "Devil" will probably be greeted with almost nothing they haven't heard previously on anything the band's left their fingerprints on. Single "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" and its follow up "Why the Munsters Matter" sound like b-sides off of "Bone Palace Ballet," or something between that and their debut "All's Well That Ends Well" while "3 AM" and "Under Your Halo" reek of the pop influences commonly found in Crag Owens' solo work. "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels" a song first premiered on Warped Tour 2013, sounds strangely familiar to "Love Is a Cat From Hell" a song the band did with singer Brandon Bolmer on their previous effort "Illuminaudio" an album the band has refused to touch live since Owens rejoined. It reeks of the familiar and the already heard, from the lyrics right down to the way the instruments are mixed.
Oddly enough, Thomas Erak, who was an interesting addition to the band's line-up following Jason Hale's departure, does little to further the band's sound, preferring to color within the lines set by his predecessor as opposed to creating a new picture. It's somewhat frustrating for fans who know what Erak is capable of, though Hale's work was pretty noteworthy already, so he's not necessarily downgrading himself by following suit.
Putting the music aside for a moment, I think it's only right to address how Craig Owens sounds as an individual. Many of Owens' critics describe him as "whiny" and "Devil" will certainly be a huge weapon to add to that camp's arsenal. Owens' vocals are shrill and harsh in all the ways they shouldn't be. His voice cracks at the end of lines far too often, his range peels toward the higher notes, sounding more like a baby's cries than a hardcore vocalist, and while his screams have definitely improved over time, they don't take up nearly enough of the album to serve as a proper balance to the grating cleans. // 6
Lyrics: "All's Well That Ends Well" showed that Craig Owens was able to take poetic influences and weave them in to personal themes to create something strangely impressive, while the follow up "Bone Palace Ballet" showed that he was equally capable of insulting his ex girlfriends without the need for fancy language. Listeners seemed to get a break from this in "Illuminaudio" when Brandon Bolmer wrote about a variety of themes, such as social rebellion, romance, and fear. Those who had a preference for more angry letters from a scorned lover were able to find them in Owens' new band Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows, but listeners of Chiodos probably enjoyed a break from the norm.
After taking 7 years to grow and find himself, Craig Owens should have found something new to write about, but anyone who's already heard "Devil" can already tell you that when it comes to breaking outside of his comfort zone, Owens shows little ambition. "Ole Fishlips Is Dead Now" offers an idea of what listeners are in for with the chorus "I want to forget you. You've broken everything I love, took all my light and turned it into dusk. I regret all I gave you. You've broken everything I love and I can't wait to be myself again." While "Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels" sets the familiar mood with the starting phrase "I f--king hate you." They're lyrics that reek of the horrid cliches we've come to expect from Owens & friends, and the few times he writes about something other than a girl, he's writing about himself, and he's not doing it well. The track "3 AM" lets listeners know the depths of Owens' introspection with the line "Who knew that things would be this way, I'm here because I wouldn't change, I've fallen on my face. But watch me get up again." Truly inspiring growth from a truly inspiring lyricist. // 4
Overall Impression: "Devil" was an album that showed real promise. A group of talented musicians took all the time they needed crafting what should have been an amazing album, instead, they just seemed to put their discography on repeat and let it roll from there. Maybe they were trying to let people know they still had talent before trying something ambitious, maybe they were trying to win back fans that they lost when Owens left, but regardless of the motive, what came out was exactly what you would have expected to see from the band over half a decade ago.
That's not to say this is a bad album; it's an average one. But that's why it's so frustrating. It should have been so much more, it should have been good, it should have been great, instead we're treated to talented musicians coloring inside the lines and a 30 year old frontman who refuses to stop acting like he's 16 and heartbroken. Fans of Chiodos might enjoy "Devil" but fans of ambition and progress should stay away, or be ready to recoil in disgust. // 5