As a sort of foreword to the opinion I’m about to drop, I’d like to start by saying that Craigery Owens is someone who has touched my heart over the years. So much that I paid someone to paint a small portrait of him, which hangs on my wall. So much that I drove to Cleveland to see his solo performance and also give him one of my own paintings, which he inspired. So much that I cried when I heard of his suicide attempt during the summer of 2008.
That being said, you can imagine that I, like so many of his staunch supporters, was really upset when he was let go from Chiodos last fall. Like, heart-droppingly upset. Like “this must be some sort of a mistake” upset. And like so many of you, I felt betrayed by Chiodos and I vowed to not give a shit about any future music they might happen to produce if they had the balls to carry on without their signature voice.
But then I thought back to the winter of 2008 when they met my son, who was not quite two-years-old yet, and took such a genuine liking to him (particularly ex-drummer Derrick Frost). And that memory started to dissipate my anger. That memory enabled me to remember that Chiodos was not ever just Craig Owens. It was also Bradley, Derrick, Pat, Jason and Matt. And each one of those guys is overloaded with talent in their own right.
There are always two sides.
When the Craigery-less Chiodos announced the addition of new singer Brandon Bolmer last year, my first thought was, “Poor dude. Poor, poor dude.” The shoes he was about to step into were not only huge, but sacred in this scene.
Live videos began popping up on YouTube. Videos of the new Chiodos, with Brandon singing “Letter From Janelle.”
“This is like sacrilege,” I thought. But then I saw a video of a new song, “Caves,” and I realized that this new singer kind of had a nice voice. And this new song was kind of better than nice.
And you know what else? Craig seemed to quickly bounce back and soon began piquing his fans’ interests with cryptic tweets about new music, a new band. Knowing that made me feel relieved, kind of like finding out your ex was dating again so you didn’t have to feel guilty anymore for moving on. I realized I could support Chiodos and Craig at the same time, that there was no real post-hardcore “bro code” telling me this was unacceptable.
I pre-ordered Chiodos’ “Illuminaudio” without so much as a twinge of guilt. And when it arrived the other day, I was no more than 30 seconds into the first track when the tears began to fall, goosebumps done sprung. It made me realize that all the times I described something as breath-taking? I was lying. It took Illuminaudio to literally make me momentarily stop breathing for me to learn that lesson. Chiodos succeeded in weaving 12 tracks together with more craftmanship than your grandma’s Amish-made quilt.
In a recent interview in Alternative Press, Brandon had expressed concern that he would not be well-received by the hardcore fans of Craigery-era Chiodos. Brandon, I am here to tell you to stop your worrying. Those big shoes? They spillith over, my friend.
Brandon doesn’t try to emulate Craig’s vocals. He sings with heart and conviction; he brings with him an urgency that’s perfectly synced with the tight music chugging out behind him. This album is twelve songs sung by a man who has something to prove, backed by the intense post-hardcore metallics of a band who have something to prove.
One listen was all it took to make me a believer in Chiodos v.2.
This is a brand new Chiodos. This is a finely aged Chiodos.
So there’s a new singer. Bummer city. But this is still your Chiodos, bare-footed Jason Hale, keyboard-lurching Bradley Bell and all, who practically bled out in a studio to make a record for you. Don’t turn your backs on them. I have a feeling they might even recruit some of those vitriolic, Absolute Punk-trolling bashers of Craig Owens’ love-it-or-hate-it falsetto. Change is hard, I know. But if we all stay strong and braid each others hair, I promise you we can survive a line-up change.
Still can’t justify giving your Chiodos boycott a reprieve? Then you’re depriving yourself of a fucking anthemic, brilliantly accomplished album that segues with flawless cohesion between the scourgingly heavy (“Modern Wolf Hair”) and the shimmering melodic (“Notes in Constellations”). You’re missing out on the earworm-breeding (“Caves” – have you heardthis song? I challenge you to listen and not get it lodged in your cochlea. It’s hypnotic.)And with Mr. T’s ferocity I pity the fool who passes up a guest spot that will make all the scene girls squeal* (Pierce the Veil’s Vic Fuentes in the tongue-in-cheek “Love Is a Cat From Hell”). Sucks to be you. If you need me, I’ll just be over here in the corner, blissed out on Illuminaudio. And soon I’ll add the product of Craig’s new band, D.R.U.G.S., to the rotation. I guess I’m just greedy like that.
*Fine. I’m one of those squealing scene girls.