Sound — 8
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.
Lyrics — 6
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."
Overall Impression — 8
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.