Chiodos - Illuminaudio

Chiodos are certainly one of the most polarizing bands in the scene today. Having seen a large amount of success with their first two full-length albums All’s Well That Ends Welland Bone Palace Ballet, the ousting of frontman and lead singer Craigery Owens came as a shock to the outside world. From the inside though, it was clearly what the group thought was best for them. With Illuminaudio, their third release on Equal Vision Records, it’s clear that they’ve moved on and are setting their sights on bigger things than ever. 

When Owens and the group parted ways, fans wondered how Chiodos would fare heading forth with new vocalist Brandon Bolmer (formerly of Yesterday’s Rising). There were a lot of opinions circulating that the group should change their name, as Owens’ vocal style and presence was what made the band so unique and distinguishable. However, the success that Chiodos saw with their first two releases was not universal, and a lot of members on this website had negative feelings towards Chiodos and Owens while they were at the height of their popularity. Now, with Bolmer, new drummer Tanner Wayne (formerly of Underminded and Scary Kids Scaring Kids), and original members Bradley Bell, Matt Goddard, Jason Hale, and Pat McManaman, Chiodos offer up one of the most intriguing records of 2010 with Illuminaudio.

The introductory title track leads right into the fiery “Caves”, and right from the outset, two qualms are set aside. First of all, it is clear that Bolmer is a more than adequate replacement for Owens. Comparing the two is useless and futile, but Bolmer shines on this record and fans of Yesterday’s Rising know that he can hold his own while transitioning from screaming to high-pitched vocals. The second is that Chiodos are quite obviously still Chiodos. Keeping the band name was definitely the right move, as the progression seen from Bone Palace Ballet to Illuminaudio is exactly what should have been expected. Jason Hale is back, shredding away with his signature face-melting riffs, Bradley Bell is stronger than ever behind the keyboard, and Tanner Wayne replaces Derrick Frost without missing a beat (literally).

”Illuminaudio” was the track released on the first teaser video from Chiodos, and the pounding drums and vocal harmony heard at the end of that video is the beginning of “Caves”. “Caves” is undoubtedly one of the strongest tracks on the record, and will settle hardcore Chiodos fans right from the beginning. It’s excellently produced by Machine, with Bolmer’s screams during the heavier parts sounding larger than life. His falsetto throughout the verses is executed beautifully, and even without their former frontman, Chiodos have managed to keep the signature sound that has always separated them from the rest of the post-hardcore pack. “Caves” is an emotionally charged, driving track…a signal at the outset that Chiodos are back and they mean business.

”Love Is A Cat From Hell” and “Modern Wolf Hair” have both already been released, and each of these songs continue to show the group’s progression. Hale’s guitar work is the most consistent aspect of this group and this record, and he really shines on “Love Is A Cat From Hell”. “Modern Wolf Hair” is heavier, infused with gang vocals and a catchy chorus. In the bridge, an extensive buildup climaxes when Bolmer screams “Run for your life!”, launching a sweltering breakdown.

The first four songs on the record serve as the proverbial punch in the ears to get your attention, and “Notes In Constellations” is the first breather we get. Chiodos slow things down a bit here, crafting a track that is unlike any other song recorded by the band. It features phenomenal production for Bolmer’s high-pitched vocals, with airy guitar lines doodling the atmosphere. The best way to describe this track is its name; it’s very experimental and reveals a side of Chiodos that we haven’t seen before, but we may want more of in the future. Things get rolling again with “Scaremonger” and “His Story Repeats Itself”. Both of these tracks are heavy, and nifty vocal effects at the end of “Scaremonger” lead into “His Story Repeats Itself” nicely. “His Story” has the catchiest chorus on the record and Bell’s keys are very present here.

The stress on the keys is continued into “Let Us Burn One” and “Hey Zeus! The Dungeon”. The former is the least impressive offering on Illuminaudio, but still features strong screams in a haunting breakdown. Hale’s strong riffs save this track from being the obligatory “skip” track on the record. “Hey Zeus!” will please fans of Bone Palace Ballet. Perhaps the strongest track on Illuminaudio, it shines with a spine-tingling chorus. Bolmer cries out, “She doesn’t know who I am / For I am the ghost / I am the ghost of him,” over haunting backup vocals. The music suits the lyrics perfectly here, and a large buildup in the bridge is climaxed by some shredding from Hale before the final chorus.

As we near the end of the album, “Stratovolcano Mouth” borrows musically from the leftovers of “Thermacare”, the last track that Chiodos recorded with Owens. Again showing similarities to Bone Palace Ballet, the strings are very present on this track. There is an enormous vocal buildup into the best breakdown on the record, with extremely heavy screams from Bolmer and blistering guitar work from Hale. “Those Who Slay Together, Stay Together” has all of the elements that Chiodos fans are familiar with, proving to be an excellent choice as the first song from the record to be released to the masses.

The last track on Illuminaudio, “Closed Eyes Still Look Forward”, is a visit back to the introductory track. The lyrics from “Illuminaudio” are sped up here, and the electronic drums and omnipresent keys provide for a calm outro to the album. It’s notable as a closer because of its contrast to the rest of the record.

Illuminaudio is going to exceed expectations by miles. Not many people were giving this band much of a chance a few months ago, but they have slowly won listeners over by releasing a few songs off the new album. The three tracks currently available to the masses are but a taste of what Chiodos have presented on Illuminaudio. It’s the exact direction that the band should have gone with their sound and Brandon Bolmer shows us things that we never heard from him with Yesterday’s Rising. This is by far the most pleasant surprise of 2010 for me, and it is certainly worthy of being grouped with Chiodos’ previous records. Is it the band’s best work? That’s debatable, but it may be a pointless argument. Chiodos have a new look but the same great taste…err, sound. They’re back in business and they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

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