With Craig Owens returning to Chiodos, balance was restored in the world and things seemed right again. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but in all seriousness, I’ve been waiting for Craig Owens to come back to this band since he left. While this may not be the line-up that gave fans All is Well that Ends Well and Bone Palace Ballet (original lead guitarist Jason Hale left in 2012, replaced by former- Fall of Troy guitarist Thomas Erak), Chiodos’s newest LP Devil hits us with passion reminiscent of the pre-Illuminaudio days without losing the growth they found in instrumental technicality.
After the quick piano intro that is “U.G. Introduction,” full instrumentals boom in for “We’re Talking about Practice.” This song picks up right where the band left off in 2007, creating that signature Chiodos sound that put them to the forefront of post-hardcore. With frenzied guitars setting the tone, Owens’s lyrics immediately address his inner demons while delivering an extremely catchy chorus. “Ole Fishlips is Dead Now,” the first digitally released single of the album, opens with the edge that the previous song built into. Going from screams to spoken word to clean vocals along smooth transitions between heavy breakdowns and more melodic instrumentals, this track exemplifies the great chemistry of all members in this line-up. Over the past couple years, releases from D.R.UG.S. and an Owenless-Chiodos lacked the dramatic impact and fluidity that the third track on this album hits spot on.
Drifting into somewhat uncharted territory for Chiodos, “3am” has some serious pop-punk influences and it will be stuck in your head for days. Featuring a piano and violins, the sound is so much bigger than the typical song in that genre, making it another stick-out track on this album. “Looking for a Tornado” channels a similar energy, beginning just clean vocals and an acoustic guitar before breaking into full band instrumentals. Lacking the gritty guitars and heavy breakdowns that mark tracks like “Behvis Bullock,” Owens addresses his personal devils directly in the chorus, singing “Devil, don’t let me go.” If you are looking something more upbeat and truer to the Chiodos you’re used to, “Expensive Conversations at Cheap Motels” and “I am Everything That’s Normal” will sure to fill those requirements. On Warped Tour 2013, “Expensive Conversations” was the only new song in the band’s setlist and further amped up crowds for new music. Appropriately enough, it is a definite highlight of the album, with those biting, angsty lyrics and the back-and-forth contrast of smooth vocals//melodic instrumentals and high-pitched screams//screeching guitars.
While there are definitely songs on this album that make you bang your head, it wouldn’t be a true Chiodos album without a handful of tracks that make you cringe. It seems to be the general consensus of critics everywhere that the “Sunny Days and Hand Grenades” and “Duct Tape” procession is the album’s biggest blemish. “Sunny Days” has this eerie circus-y sound and even features a spoken word segment with Owens saying lines like “Take a seat, sit right down, and welcome to all the lies…” The idea is pretty cliche (only The Venetia Fair pulls it off) and for an album with such powerful and catchy tracks, this one falls incredibly short and is on the verge of unbearable. Moving on to the slightly better “Duct Tape,” the industrial pop influences are pretty cool and Chiodos should credit from experimenting with a new sound. However, the song is slow and considerably flat. Proceeding a song as rough as “Sunny Days,” this song gets dragged down with it within the context of the album. Speaking of experimenting with a new sound, “Under Your Halo” is Chiodos’s stab at a straight-up pop song. All I will say is it’s definitely as bad as you think it’d be.
While those three songs might have been pretty brutal, the other ten tracks really show off some killer songwriting and growth within each member of Chiodos. Devil does not just represent Craig Owen’s reunion with the band, but rather Chiodos’s propulsion back into relevance in the current post-hardcore genre. The sound is hard to pin-point as the band made a very ballsy move to incorporate such large influences from other genres as well as trying out an entirely new sound on some tracks. While some did fall short, “3am” and “Looking for a Tornado” were risks that was well worth the reward, a great representation of the versatility and talent this band exhibits. But even in songs that embody that classic Chiodos sound, such as “We’re Talking about Practice” and “Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels,” hints from all of Chiodos’s discography can be heard. The tricky and skilled instrumentals heard in Illuminaudio collide with passion of Bone Palace Ballet and All is Well that Ends Well to make it seem as though this line-up has been maturing together this whole time. Not for nothing, even the unapologetic angst of D.R.U.G.S. shines through. It should be noted and applauded that instead of hiding any parts of the past or excluding any musical endeavors over the last seven years, Chiodos takes the best parts of each to give us Devil. Is it going down in history as the best album on their discography? No, probably not. But it’s a hell of a way to get back in the game.