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Post-hardcore outfit Chiodos have reunited with Craig Owens, the band’s original lead singer, to produce “Devil,” their first record with Owens since 2007’s “Bone Palace Ballet.”
The distinctive style of the first half of Chiodos’ discography, including “Bone Palace Ballet” and 2005’s “All’s Well That Ends Well,” was marked by intensely listenable and creative, if not always complex, instrumental arrangements that featured string-heavy interludes and almost equal shares for the band’s two lead guitars and keyboardist Bradley Bell.
Owens, who was “let go” by Chiodos in 2009, according to the band’s Myspace page, spent his time apart from Chiodos cultivating his own musical style, most notably heard in his side project D.R.U.G.S. (Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows).
Most of “Devil” is spent attempting to balance Owens’ lyrics and the instrumental-heavy style of early 2000s Chiodos.
Owens’ lyrics possess a type of vague, almost nonsensical quality that sometimes effectively emphasizes the dramatic atmosphere that the band aims to achieve and sometimes leaves listeners scratching their heads, wondering how they relate to the relationship difficulties that Owens and the other members of Chiodos have clearly faced.
The lyrics “I heard the cry of what might have been/ The shine atop the air like the stars in the sky” from Owens in “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades” are almost wholly for effect.
However, within the context of the instrumentals, it is arguably the most complex song on the album, which is complete with chromatic licks and meter changes.
Chiodos also shows that they know how to rein themselves in with the poppy, rock-influenced “3 AM,” not to be confused with the Matchbox 20 song of the same name.
“3 AM” winds up being a pretty generic song about a lost love and subsequent late nights spent thinking about said love.
“Now everything else is meaningless/ So I’m laying in bed sick with regret at 3 a.m.,” Owens sings above chunky guitar chords and a straightforward drum beat, lending almost nothing to one of the more forgettable songs on “Devil.”
If “3 AM” represents a toned-down version of Chiodos, “Behvis Bullock” represents a contrary attitude.
The energy alone on this track is enough to make it easily the most fun and interesting song on the album.
From beginning to end, “Behvis Bullock” features intense, screaming vocals and thrashing instrumentals, only coming up for air during the chorus.
And, of course, what’s the most hardcore song on the album without a half-time, bass-heavy breakdown at the end?
The instrumentals on “Devil” are thick. The creative pairings of Owens and Chiodos produce some unique musical moments, but throughout the album, something seems to be lacking.
Maybe Chiodos would’ve done better to leave a few more choruses up to the band than have Owens destroy high notes throughout the entire record.
While there are some interesting moments on “Devil” – such as the meter change into the chorus of “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades” and the transition from the album’s ambient instrumental first track into the more energetic later tracks – the album’s biggest shortcomings are its vocal melodies and its formulaic approach to its songs.
While Owens, 29, has certainly matured as a vocalist since “All’s Well That Ends Well,” the melodies are nearly indistinguishable across the track list, with none being really standout or really bad, either.
The forms of the songs are also pretty straightforward throughout the runtime of “Devil.” While some of Chiodos’ previous efforts saw nearly through-composed songs with disregard for the traditional intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-outro form, many of the tracks on “Devil” are predictably structured.
“Devil” is an enjoyable listen.
The band’s energy has not diminished by reuniting with its old vocalist, but some of the elements that made this combination unique in the first place are sadly absent from their latest release.
“Devil” is available to purchase on iTunes and listen on Spotify.