Sound — 6
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.
Lyrics — 4
"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.
Overall Impression — 5
"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.