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Chiodos

Bone Palace Ballet
Equal Vision Records
www.chiodos.net


I'd like to make a hypothesis: out of all of the genres of music in the world, I would (arguably) suggest that the corner of punk-rock labeled as "screamo" could very well be the most difficult kind of music in the world to make. Now, I'm not trying to say that it is hard to create a hard rock inspired scream-fest, but to successfully pull it off seems to be quite an intimidating feat. Because underneath all that "noise", there must be a fine line created that balances the screeching and glottal growling against the musicality of the album itself. Good screamo (at least to the extent of my knowledge) is not based on how many decibels the vocalist's voice reaches or how indistinguishable and muddled the music sounds, but is largely stationed around how balanced the aggression of the the music is versus standard song requirements like melody, rhythm and lyrics.

And now after that brief prelude, I feel prepared to tackle Chiodos' Bone Palace Ballet, or as I like to call it, "The Great Screamo Rock Opera". The cover of the album features two finely dressed skeletons (one in a tailored suit and top hat while the other dons a flowing white gown and "Bride of Frankenstein" hair-do), and instantly I begin to draw irrational comparisons to My Chemical Romance's monumental The Black Parade. But after simply listening to the first track, any sort of correlation gets smashed. Less formulaic and more emotional, Chiodos has done something special here.

Lead singer Craig Owens has vocals that combine the sounds of Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazzara, Coheed & Cambria's Claudio Sanchez and The Used's Bert McCracken, and it is fully effective throughout most of Bone Palace Ballet, especially on "Bulls Make Money, Bears Make Money, Pigs Get Slaughtered" where it reaches heights unheard of to most contemporary male singers (vocal chords of absolute steel). The production value of the album is also quite beefed-up in comparison to other rock groups; a string orchestra of violins often can be heard bouncing in the background of some of the tracks, while a moody cello will shake any speakers' bass-function off its foundation (take one listen to "Life Is a Perception of Your Own Reality" and you'll be dumb-founded by how well a symphony can fit in with hard rock).

Their lyrics are also worthy of some special attention as they trudge through the muck of self-deprecation and lurk in the shadows of sickly twisted and intimidating perversion: from the devilishly titled "Is It Progression If ACannibal Uses A Fork?", "I want to know what's going on in that pretty little head of yours".

However, this disc isn't the pure vocal-soaring, raw-emoting experience that it thinks it is. I wouldn't call the guys in Chiodos pretentious, but I also wouldn't say they were terribly humble in their execution of Bone Palace Ballet. Yes, there are some really great tracks here that I must say surprised me in how well-developed they are, but based on my earlier hypothesis, they haven't perfected their "screamo craft" just yet. In songs like "Teeth The Size Of Piano Keys", they seem to let their above-average lyricism get lost in the pool of crashing guitars and ear-bleeding vocals. Though not as prevalent as the hits on the record, the misses are blunders because of their lack of congruent connection between lyrics and the music itself. Just not meshing right, it's a shame that the heart-breaking "If I Cut My Hair, Hawaii Will Sink" becomes completely overwhelmed by the unnecessarily wailing vocals and rhythmically terrifying percussion.

But as the curtain closes on the Bone Palace Ballet and Chiodos take their final bow, they will undoubtedly be met with thunderous applause. However, let's hope they don't get their hopes up when the standing ovation that they expect doesn't come as quickly as they'd like.

-Josh Page


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