The messier the breakup, the more awkward the reconciliation will be, that reality certainly being the case for the experimental hardcore act known as Chiodos.
The veteran Michigan band is currently on the road celebrating its epically ambitious new full-length, Devil. That the record has been as well-received by fans as by critics is the payoff for some major relationship rebuilding a few years back.
The original edition of Chiodos stopped being a fully functioning unit sometime at the end of last decade. Things would eventually come to a head with the issuing of a 2009 MySpace statement announcing that the band had decided to “let go” singer Craig Owens. While no reason was given, it would later be revealed that drug and alcohol problems had created endless friction between the frontman and his bandmates.
Four years later, Owens let it be known, through his management, that he had cleaned up his act and wanted back onboard. For the other members of Chiodos, which released 2010’s Illuminaudio with a replacement singer (Brandon Bolmer), the olive branch was a welcome one.
“We’d finished a tour, and then decided to put it all to rest for a little while,” says keyboardist and songwriter Bradley Bell, on the line from an Albuquerque tour stop. “We weren’t looking to do anything official—we more wanted to take a break and enjoy life. Craig had reached out to our management to see if there was any interest in reuniting. So we reached back out and said we were interested.”
The initial reunion between Owens and the rest of Chiodos wasn’t exactly comfortable, however.
“It’s totally natural for things to be awkward at first—that’s just a natural human reaction,” Bell relates. “When we first got back together, it was for a photo shoot—that was literally the first time the whole band stepped back together in a room again. It was like, ‘We haven’t said anything to each other in years, but here we are taking photos together.’ It was definitely awkward.”
Still, Bell, who wrote much of the Chiodos back catalogue with Owens, discovered there remained an important artistic connection.
“Right after we’d done a couple of reunion shows on weekends, he told me that he had an acoustic tour booked. I thought that was a good chance for us to work on our relationship again, and see if there was some writing chemistry still there.”
Devil reinforces Chiodos’s reputation as one of the most thrilling acts in posthardcore, the group swinging from blunt-force-trauma heaviness (“Behvis Bullock”) to double-sweetened confections (“Under Your Halo”). Witness the way that “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades” shape-shifts from a soft ballad to a ragtime hard-metal waltz, or how “Expensive Conversations in Cheap Motels” bounces from razor-burn ska-punk to haunted-carnival spazzcore. Anchoring everything is Owens, who croons like a teen pop idol one minute and then sounds like Satan getting a rectal riveting the next.
Understandably, Bell is thrilled to have Chiodos’s original singer back in the fold. “We wanted to put a good ending to what we once had,” he says. “When I first talked about it with the remaining members, everyone thought that it was a cool idea. Like, why would we want to have this dramatic cloud hang over us for the rest of our lives, for years to come?”
Chiodos plays the Rio Theatre on Saturday (May 10).